(from NYDailyNews.com, by the Associated Press), TRENTON, N.J. – The New Jersey state Senate on Thursday voted down a bill to legalize gay marriage, ending a major legislative battle but setting off anew a court fight.
Minutes after the bill was defeated 20-14, gay rights advocates announced they would file a lawsuit seeking to get the state’s top court to order New Jersey to recognize same-sex matrimony.
The state Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that the state must provide all the benefits of marriage to committed gay couples. In response, the Legislature legalized civil unions for gay couples.
The Senate vote also was the latest setback for gay rights supporters nationally. In November, Maine voters overturned a law that would have allowed gay marriage in that state. The law never went into effect. And last month, the state Senate in New York defeated a similar law. In California, a federal trial will begin next week on that state’s gay marriage ban.
Only five states – Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont – recognize gay marriage.
Gay rights advocates had pushed hard to get the New Jersey measure passed before Jan. 19, when Republican Chris Christie becomes governor. Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine had promised to sign the bill if approved by the Legislature but Christie said he would veto it.
On Tuesday, Sen. President Richard Codey agreed to put the bill to a vote, leaving little mystery about its fate. Only one Republican, Sen. Bill Baroni of Hamilton, was among the 14 senators who voted for the bill. The measure needed 21 votes to pass.
“We should not be telling one couple you can be married and another couple you can be civil unionized,” Baroni said. “We are better than that. History is watching us now. She is asking us whether we’ll side with equality and right – or for discrimination.”
Those [who support traditional marriage] said changing the centuries-old definition of marriage was too drastic a move for lawmakers to make. Opponents want to put the measure to a popular vote.
“Suddenly, today, there’s implications that you’re discriminating against folks when you want to maintain that definition,” said Sen. Michael Doherty, a Republican from Washington Township in Warren County.
As vigorous as the debate became, most senators who were thought to be on the fence in the preceding weeks did not chime in. Five senators did not even cast votes.
Among the abstainers was Stephen Sweeney, a Democrat from Gloucester County’s Washington Township who is expected to become Senate president when the Legislature reorganizes Tuesday. Sweeney did not return calls for comment.
Gay couples say civil unions don’t work largely because employees at hospitals, insurance companies and elsewhere don’t understand the concept. Gay rights groups said Thursday they would use statements made by senators to support their arguments in their lawsuit.
Steven Goldstein, chairman of the gay rights group Garden State Equality, said acknowledgment that civil unions haven’t worked should be enough to persuade the court to mandate gay marriage.
Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from The New York Daily News. Visit the website at nydailynews.com.
1. How did gay rights advocates react to yesterday’s defeat of a bill proposed to legalize same-sex marriage in New Jersey?
2. Why did the New Jersey Legislature legalize civil unions for gay couples in 2006?
3. a) In which state did voters recently overturn a law that would have legalized same-sex marriage?
b) The state Senate of which state voted against legalizing same-sex marriage last month?
4. a) List the states that have legalized same-sex marriage.
b) How many states have added defense of traditional marriage amendments to their constitutions? (see “Background” below for the answer.)
5. Why were gay rights advocates pushing for the same-sex marriage bill to be voted on before January 10?
6. Only one Republican, Sen. Bill Baroni of Hamilton, was among the 14 senators who voted for the bill to legalize same-sex marriage. Why did he vote against the stand the Republican party has taken on this issue?
7. What reasons do supporters of traditional marriage give for their viewpoint?
8. Why do you think senators who were thought to be ‘on the fence’ about their vote didn’t participate in any of the debate over the issue, and five senators then did not even cast votes?
9. We hear a lot in the news about equal rights for homosexual couples, and how it is discriminatory, hateful and unfair to prohibit two people who love each other from getting married. We don’t hear as much about the reasons people have for supporting traditional marriage. In a response to an article about the vote in the Wall Street Journal, one reader wrote the following:
“The real question is: does society have a right to define what its core institution will be? No civilization throughout history (at least one that’s thrived) has been able to survive without a strong nuclear family. To say otherwise is simply revisionism — while one can imagine why this need not be so, it as a matter of fact has never been so. Rather than take the libertarian view – what people choose to do of their own volition is between themselves – and acknowledge that society has a right to preserve nuclear families via special privileges, the “gay rights” movement proposes full equality of something that is contrary to any civilization’s survival. In a post-modern age, political correctness and moral relativism blind many from recognizing objective truths by denying their very existance. Yet, by definition, no union can be deemed “special” if it is simply like any other arrangement. For that matter, polygomy or even, in the European sense, tri-marriages, have no basis for unequal treatment. We can evade reality, but we cannot evade the consequences of evading reality.”
a) Do you agree with this reader’s opinion? Explain your answer.
b) Ask a parent the same question.
SAME SEX MARRIAGE ACROSS THE COUNTRY
(from the Initiative and Referendum Institute -iandrinstitute.org/BW%202009-2%20Results%20%28v1%29.pdf)
- 2009’s highest profile issue was Maine’s Question 1 that asked voters to repeal a May law legalizing same-sex marriage. Traditional marriage was victorious, by a 53-47 margin. Following California’s Proposition 8 last year, this marks the second successive repeal of a same sex marriage law by the voters. …
- Same-sex marriage has now been rejected in 33 of 34 ballot propositions (with the only exception, in Arizona, reversed two years after the initial vote).
- Same-sex marriage has been a hot issue since February 2004 when the supreme court of Massachusetts found a right to same-sex marriage in the state constitution, setting off a backlash across the country, with citizen groups and legislatures rushing to place constitutional amendments on the ballot to head off a similar ruling by courts in their states. (See Ballotwatch Report BW 2008-2, “Same-Sex Marriage: Breaking the Firewall in California?,” available at ballotwatch.org.)
- So far, the only victories for same-sex marriage supporters have come from courts and legislatures – the electorate continues to reject the idea of gay marriage. Gay rights supports fared better in the state of Washington, where an attempt to repeal a state law that grants same-sex domestic partners essentially the same rights as married spouses (R-71) failed, with voters supporting the existing law 51-49. Supporters spent about $2 million during the campaign, compared to about $500,000 by opponents.
- Marriage is defined as the union of one man and one woman in at least 42 states.
- Currently, 30 states have added defense of marriage amendments to their constitutions.
- There are five states that recognize or will soon recognize same-sex marriages, and a total of six (plus the District of Columbia) that recognize some form of same-sex civil unions or domestic partnerships.
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