Home>Highlight>Legislature overwhelmingly approves same-sex marriage codification

New Jersey marriage equality pioneers Louise Walpin, left, and Marsha Shapiro. (Photo: Marsha Shapiro).

Legislature overwhelmingly approves same-sex marriage codification

By Joey Fox, December 20 2021 11:21 pm

Both houses of the legislature today approved a measure that would formally codify same-sex marriage into the state statutes; currently, marriage equality is protected only by judicial order, meaning that it would be vulnerable if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Obergefell v. Hodges.

The Senate vote was 35-4, with State Sens. Christopher Connors (R-Lacey), Michael Doherty (R-Oxford), Steven Oroho (R-Franklin), and Robert Singer (R-Lakewood) opposed; Oroho previously opposed the bill when it advanced from the Judiciary Committee last week.

The Assembly, meanwhile, saw 53 members vote in favor of the bill, 10 vote in opposition, and four abstain; another 13 members did not vote at all, many of them having left for the night by the time the bill came to a vote at 11 p.m.

“Basic equal rights should not be denied to any class of citizen, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation,” State Sen. Vin Gopal (D-Long Branch), one of the bill’s cosponsors in the Senate, said in a statement after its passage. “The law must protect all civil rights and continue to honor the union between two people who love each other. We need to make these rights more secure by writing them into law.”

While today’s votes were both relatively uncontroversial and attracted significant bipartisan support, the issue was far more of a lightning rod within recent legislative memory. Major same-sex marriage bills came before the legislature in 2009 and 2012, but were foiled by resistant legislators and Gov. Chris Christie’s veto power until the state Supreme court ruled in 2013’s Garden State Equality v. Dow that gay marriage would be legal statewide.

“In 2012, I was proud to be a prime sponsor of New Jersey’s Marriage Equality Act,” Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Englewood), an Assembly co-sponsor, said in a statement released the morning after the bill’s passage. “At the time, I received considerable backlash for my support of the LGBTQ community, as did many of my colleagues. I am proud to once again be leading the charge to ensure that the rights of the LGBTQ community are safeguarded.”

This story was updated at 11:54 a.m. on December 21 with a statement from Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle.

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