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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex marriage (SSM)

Quotations. Summary of the fight
for marriage equality in New Jersey

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bullet "If marriage means everything, it means absolutely nothing." Dr. James C. Dobson, of Focus on the Family.
bullet "A loving man and woman in a committed relationship can marry. Dogs, no matter what their relationship, are not allowed to marry. How should society treat gays and lesbians in committed relationships? As dogs or as humans?" A posting to an Internet mailing list; used by permission of the author.
bullet "All persons are by nature free and independent, and have certain natural and unalienable rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty, of acquiring, possessing and protecting property, and of pursuing and obtaining safety and happiness." Article 1, Paragraph 1 of the New Jersey Constitution.
bullet "The couples, declaring they were tired of paying first-class taxes while being treated like second-class citizens, demanded the state allow them to marry just like their heterosexual friends, family, and neighbors." Excerpt from a Lambda news release concerning the New Jersey same-sex marriage lawsuit. 1
bullet "We want to say 'we're married' and have our community instantly understand the kind of loving relationship that we have -- that we're in it for the long haul, through thick and thin." Saundra Heath, plaintiff. 1
bullet "We shouldn't have to jump through a million hoops to prove who we are to each other, and even then not be treated as equal to other couples." Alicia Toby, plaintiff and Saundra's partner. 1

bullet "You’ve confused a war on religion with not always getting what you want." Jon Stewart, commenting on the conservative religious belief that same-sex marriage will endanger religious liberty and freedom.

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Time line of the drive to same-sex marriage (SSM):

Gays, lesbians, and bisexuals in several U.S. states have launched lawsuits to force their states to expand the legal definition of marriage to include same sex couples. Of these, the case in Massachusetts was successful. A similar movement in Canada granted same-sex couples the right to marry across the entire country in 2005-JUL. During early 2009, a number of New England states considered bills to create same-sex marriage legislation; all but one enlarged the definition of marriage -- for the fourth redefinition in the history of the United States -- to include loving, committed same-sex couples. The previous three cases when marriage was defined were:

  • In the mid 19th century when recently freed African American slaves were allowed to marry,
  • In the early 20th century when laws preventing deaf couples from marrying in a few states were repealed, and
  • In 1967 when interracial couples were allowed to marry.

The next states to make marriages available to loving, committed same-sex marriage were:

  • New York had the second highest public support for SSM. A law enabling SSM in New York was passed on 2011-JUN-24 and becomes effective on 2011-JUL-24.

  • The public in three states, Maine, Maryland & Washington, legalized SSM via citizen initiatives on electon day in 2012-NOV.

  • The Legislatures of Delaware, Rhode Island, and Minnesota all legalized SSM in early 2013-MAY.

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Public support for SSM in New Jersey:

New Jersey had 49% support for SSM in 2008/2009. It currently has a margin of 20 percentage points between the percentage of supporters and of people opposing SSM. With a current margin of this size, even a large fear-based advertising campaign would be unlikely to sway voters to oppose SSM.

Six New Jersey public opinion polls by Quinnipiac University between 2006 and 2012 show a significant rise in support and drop in opposition for SSM:

Don't know,
or no anwser
Margin of support in percentage points



The great increase in support in the 2012-MAR ocurred just after Governor Chris Christie's (R) veto.

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Activity in the courts and legislature:

A lawsuit in which New Jersey same-sex couples petitioned for permission to marry was heard in late 2003-JUN by the New Jersey Superior court. Same-sex couples achieved a partial victory in 2006-OCT when the Supreme Court of New Jersey ordered the legislature to either:

  • Expand the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples, or

  • Create a civil union type system that is is equivalent to marriage, without the name "marriage."

The legislature took the second option. In late 2007, two bills were introduced to allow all committed couples in New Jersey to marry, whether of the same-sex or opposite-sex. They did not proceed.

Another attempt was made in late 2009 to legalize SSM in New Jersey. The state Senate killed the bill by a vote of 14 for and 20 against.

During 2010-MAR, same-sex couples returned to the state Supreme Court in an attempt to have SSMs legalized. This was rejected; the plaintiffs were asked to restart their court battle at the superior court level.

During 2011-JUN, still another bill was introduced to the Assembly to legalize SSM. It was passed by the Legislature but vetoed by the Governor. The legislature has until 2014-JAN to try to overturn the Governor's veto.

On 2012-DEC-05, Public Policy Polling announced their latest poll of New Jersey voters concerning same-sex marriage: 53% support SSM while 36% are in opposition for a margin of 17 percentage points. 12% are undecided or didn't answer.

72% support a referendum to decide whether to legalize SSM; 16% disagree; 12% are undecided or didn't answer. 2

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Current status:

A SSM bill was approved by the Senate and Assembly, but vetoed on 2012-FEB-17 by Governor Chris Christie (R). Supporters of SSM are now trying to persuade legislators to attempt to override Governor Christie's (R) veto. This requires a two-thirds vote in the Assembly and Senate. Although they have overwhelming support among Democratic legislators, they currently appear to be lacking sufficient Republican votes to override the veto.

Meanwhile, seven same-sex couples have initiated a lawsuit in state court an attempt to prove that the civil union law has failed to give them and their children rights, privileges and protections equal to marriage, as ordered by the court back in 2006. Their case was greatly strengthened on 2013-JUN-26 when the U.S. Supreme Court decided in the case Windsor v. United States that approximately 1,138 federal benefits given to opposite-sex married couples were now available married same-sex couples. Thus, if SSM were legalized in New Jersey, same-sex married couples would have access to a few hundred state benefits and over 1,100 federal benefits.

If the attempt to override the Governor's veto and to attain marriage equality via the courts both fail, then a backup plan could be to set up a plebiscite for election day in 2014. With the current overwhelming support for SSM among the voters, a plebiscite should succeed by a wide margin.

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Site navigation: Home > Homosexuality > Same-sex marriage > Menu > New Jersey > here

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Copyright © 2002 to 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2002-JUL-02
Major rewrite: 2013-JUL-04
Author: B.A. Robinson
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