NJ Gov. Christie Vetoes Gay Marriage Bill as Vowed

By: Angela Delli Santi, Associated Press
By: Angela Delli Santi, Associated Press

Trenton, NJ (AP) - Gov. Chris Christie has followed through on his promise to reject a bill allowing same-sex marriage in New Jersey by quickly vetoing the measure Friday and renewing his call for a ballot question to decide the issue.

The veto came a day after the state Assembly passed the bill. The state Senate had passed it on Monday. Christie, a Republican who opposes same-sex marriage, had vowed "very swift action" once the measure reached his desk.

In returning the bill to the Legislature, Christie reaffirmed his view that voters should decide whether to change the definition of marriage in New Jersey. His veto also proposed creating an ombudsman to oversee compliance with the state's civil union law, which same-sex couples have said is flawed and promotes discrimination.

"I am adhering to what I've said since this bill was first introduced - an issue of this magnitude and importance, which requires a constitutional amendment, should be left to the people of New Jersey to decide," Christie said in a statement. "I continue to encourage the Legislature to trust the people of New Jersey and seek their input by allowing our citizens to vote on a question that represents a profoundly significant societal change. This is the only path to amend our State Constitution and the best way to resolve the issue of same-sex marriage in our state.

"I have been just as adamant that same-sex couples in a civil union deserve the very same rights and benefits enjoyed by married couples - as well as the strict enforcement of those rights and benefits," the statement continued. "Discrimination should not be tolerated and any complaint alleging a violation of a citizen's right should be investigated and, if appropriate, remedied. To that end, I include in my conditional veto the creation of a strong Ombudsman for Civil Unions to carry on New Jersey's strong tradition of tolerance and fairness."

Democrats who had pushed the bill forward said they were disappointed, but not surprised, by Christie's action.

"It's unfortunate that the governor would let his own personal ideology infringe on the rights of thousands of New Jerseyans," said Reed Gusciora, one of two openly gay New Jersey lawmakers and a sponsor of the bill. "For all those who oppose marriage equality, their lives would have been completely unchanged by this bill, but for same-sex couples, their lives would have been radically transformed. Unfortunately, the governor couldn't see past his own personal ambitions to honor this truth."

Senate Democratic leaders were more blunt in their criticism of the governor.

"He had a chance to do the right thing, and failed miserably," Senate President Steve Sweeney said.

"Don't be fooled by the governor's call for a public referendum or his idea of an ombudsman for civil unions - it is nothing more than a political smoke screen designed to cover the tracks of those retreating from their leadership and lawmaking responsibilities," Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg said. "Civil unions have already proven to be a failure and no ombudsman can change that."

Lambda Legal, a civil rights organization focusing on gay rights issues that last year filed a lawsuit for marriage equality in New Jersey, called Christie's veto "an unfortunate detour" in the quest for gay marriage.

"We are disappointed that Governor Christie did not do what is right for New Jersey families, but we are not discouraged," said Hayley Gorenberg, the group's deputy legal director. "We'll continue to make our case for equality with our plaintiffs in court."

Proponents of the bill said gay marriage is a civil right being denied to gay couples, while opponents said the definition of marriage as a heterosexual institution should not be expanded. The legislation contains a religious opt-out clause, meaning no church clergy would be required to perform gay marriages and places of worship would not have to allow same-sex weddings at their facilities.

Steven Goldstein, chairman of the state's largest gay rights group, Garden State Equality, said Christie's national political ambitions guided his action.

"He won't veto the bill because he's anti-gay," Goldstein said in a statement issued before the veto was issued Friday. "He'll veto the bill because the 2016 South Carolina presidential primary electorate is anti-gay."

Goldstein, who said he has a cordial relationship with the governor, promised to continue fighting him vigorously on the issue. "And we will win, so help me God," he said.

Another gay marriage supporter, Washington state Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire, also reached out to Christie, a practicing Catholic. Gregoire sent the governor a letter last month offering to talk about gay marriage because, in her words, "while I am a Governor, I am also a Catholic."

The Roman Catholic Church opposes same-sex marriage.

Gregoire signed a gay marriage measure into law in Washington on Monday. Her spokeswoman, Karina Shagren, said Christie hasn't responded to the letter.

Thirty states, including South Carolina, have adopted constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriages, most by defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

Six states and Washington, D.C., allow gay marriage. Washington state's new gay marriage law is set to go into effect in June.

Lawmakers in New Jersey have until the end of the legislative session in January 2014 to override the veto.

They would need two-thirds of the lawmakers in the Assembly and Senate to agree. Both votes to pass it fell short of that mark. Christie has virtually guaranteed that no override would succeed because Republicans wouldn't cross him.

The Democratic-controlled Legislature has failed in every previous attempt to override Christie, most notably on a cut to women's health care and an effort to reinstate a tax surcharge on millionaires.

Christie - and most Republican lawmakers - want to put the issue to a public vote. One GOP lawmaker, Sen. Kip Bateman of Somerset, has proposed a ballot question asking voters to allow same-sex nuptials. However, the most powerful Democrat in the Legislature, Senate President Steve Sweeney, has said that won't happen.

Democrats are hoping that support for gay marriage - 52 percent for gay marriage, 42 against it, in New Jersey, according to one recent voter poll - will continue growing.

If same-sex couples can't win gay marriage through legislation, they have engaged in a parallel fight in the courts. Seven gay couples and several of their children have sued, claiming that the state's civil union law doesn't work as intended.

Civil unions were designed to provide the benefits of marriage to gay couples without the title. They were adopted after the Supreme Court instructed the Legislature to provide marriage equality to same-sex couples.

The state's own review commission has since found problems with the law, and same-sex couples have backed that up with testimony before the Legislature.

John Grant and Daniel Weiss, an Asbury Park couple who are in a civil union, are among those who testified in support of gay marriage.

When Grant was in a life-threatening automobile accident and rushed to a New York hospital in 2010 - before that state legalized gay marriage - Weiss said he couldn't authorize badly needed surgery or even go through his partner's wallet to find his health insurance card. He said their civil union was essentially worthless; Grant's neurosurgeon even asked, "What is a civil union?"

A gay marriage bill was defeated in the Senate two years ago, just before Gov. Jon Corzine, a Democrat who supported the measure, left office. Advocates' hopes dimmed with the arrival of Christie, who spoke against gay marriage when asked about it during his campaign.


Associated Press correspondent Rachel La Corte in Olympia, Wash., contributed to this report.

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  • by HMA on Feb 20, 2012 at 04:48 AM
    What about other types of sexually deviant behavior... If homosexuals are allowed to marry, how long before someone wants to legalize beasteality?? The same arguments can be made.
    • reply
      by Gerry on Feb 20, 2012 at 05:11 AM in reply to HMA
      Not exactly. There is the issue of consent. Marriage is reserved for consenting adults.
      • reply
        by HMA on Feb 20, 2012 at 09:35 AM in reply to Gerry
        As you stated in an earlier post, "Laws can be changed". I have a Female Yellow Labradore that loves me as much or more than my wife. She is 21 in dog years and I have no doubt that she would consent to mariage. Vet bills can be expensive. If we were married, she could be on my insurance plan. Denying us the right to get married is is just plain wrong. (I'm just making a point. I have no desire to marry a dog.)
        • reply
          by Gerry on Feb 20, 2012 at 02:00 PM in reply to HMA
          I'm sure that, if you have a 6 year old daughter, she loves you very much, and might well give her uninformed consent to marry you, if you desired marriage. It's not going to happen in the US. The basic idea of statutory rape is that any adult having sex with a 6 year old is a rapist, because the child can't give informed consent. If a 6 year old or 8 year old or 10 year old can't give consent, I doubt a dog can. I also have a fairy strong feeling that an adult is never going to be able to marry a 6 year old in the US.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Mar 14, 2012 at 07:09 AM in reply to HMA
      There's a huge difference between a homosexual HUMAN BEING and an animal.
  • by Dee on Feb 19, 2012 at 02:42 PM
    From the article: "Goldstein, who said he has a cordial relationship with the governor, promised to continue fighting him vigorously on the issue. "And we will win, so help me God," he said." That's so ridiculous it's funny. He really thinks that God is really going to help him pursue a sinful activity?
    • reply
      by Gerry on Feb 19, 2012 at 07:52 PM in reply to Dee
      Is sinful a legal term? Don't some denominations regard dancing or smoking or drinking as sinful? Maybe his God doesn't regard the activity as "sinful."
  • by Gerry Location: Tallahassee on Feb 18, 2012 at 07:50 AM
    If your particular house of worship or denomination is not required to marry same-sex couples, what exactly is your objection?
  • by Gerry Location: Tallahassee on Feb 18, 2012 at 07:27 AM
    What is fair about allowing citizens to deny same-sex couples the same advantages of marriage that different-sex couples enjoy? Would it be fair to have a referendum allowing citizens to vote on whether everybody enjoys the privilege against self-incrimination? Would a vote on whether everybody should enjoy the privilege against cruel and unusual punishments be fair? Would a vote on whether everybody should enjoy the privilege against unreasonable searches and seizures be fair?
    • reply
      by Conservative democrat on Feb 18, 2012 at 09:01 AM in reply to Gerry
      marriage is defined as between a man and a women, if same sex marriage is allowed then what is next people can marry their cat or dog???
      • reply
        by Gerry on Feb 18, 2012 at 10:07 AM in reply to Conservative democrat
        Who defines marriage as between one man and one woman? The law? The law can be changed. Define a marriage as between 2 people. Problem solved.
        • reply
          by One Shot on Feb 19, 2012 at 04:08 PM in reply to Gerry
          Nature does MORON!
        • reply
          by Gerry on Feb 19, 2012 at 08:04 PM in reply to Gerry
          @ One Shot You might be confusing sex with marriage. You're saying men should be guided by the behavior of beasts? Some different-sex human couples have sex for reasons other than reproduction. Should this be illegal? Is it unnatural, in the sense of not occurring in the animal kingdom?
  • by Hesa Nidiot on Feb 18, 2012 at 07:21 AM
    Another prejudiced, bigoted, STUPID moron "conservative".
    • reply
      by Elizabeth on Feb 18, 2012 at 08:32 AM in reply to Hesa Nidiot
      a Man after my HEART says WOMAN read your bible Hesa Nidiot your name says it all
      • reply
        by Hesa Nidiot's brother, Ura Nidiot on Feb 18, 2012 at 11:11 AM in reply to Elizabeth
        Read MY bible? Why not read Harry Potter or Grimm's Fairy Tales?? All are collections of fairy tales, myths, legends and outright lies - especially YOUR bible. Instead of reading your bible, perhaps you could learn something about grammar, punctuation and reading comprehension.
        • reply
          by Elizabeth on Feb 20, 2012 at 11:15 AM in reply to Hesa Nidiot's brother, Ura Nidiot
          HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH what a fill in the blank cause you are a blank...hesa nidiot brother U R NUTS
    • reply
      by Why? on Feb 20, 2012 at 09:36 AM in reply to Hesa Nidiot
      Why are you calling him names? Because he didn't force your beliefs onto someone else? He said he would put it up for a vote. Is that not good enough for you? Who knows....if they vote it in you can move.
  • by truth Location: nf on Feb 18, 2012 at 05:10 AM
    I agree put this on the ballot thats fair,let the people vote the winner should be the law.
  • by Marriage is whatever you want it to be on Feb 18, 2012 at 05:05 AM
    If he does pass it then I want to marry my truck. I love my truck. Why not? I'd like the extra deduction and the insurance benefits. Who's to say no to my decision of who I want to marry?
    • reply
      by Geez on Feb 18, 2012 at 08:38 AM in reply to Marriage is whatever you want it to be
      Well you and your truck also adopt a real child? No, moron. IT IS NOT ALIVE. WELL IT WASH YOUR CLOTHES? fix your meals? NO, MORON!!!!!
      • reply
        by One Shot on Feb 19, 2012 at 04:10 PM in reply to Geez
        That would be "WILL" not "WELL" MORON!
  • by Gerry Location: Tallahassee on Feb 17, 2012 at 09:34 PM
    Christie will turn 50 this year. You have to wonder if his health isn't going to be a concern by 2016, if he's alive. Like it or loathe it, it's easy to see which way the wind is blowing on same-sex marriage. There is going to be more and more same-sex marriage, not less.
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