Gay marriage has been codified as the law of the land in New Jersey, as has access to abortion. Under a bill spearheaded by Assemblyman John McKeon (D-West Orange) and approved by the Assembly Judiciary Committee today on a unanimous vote, the right to interracial marriage would be next.
“We rushed, as we should have, having the moral compass that this state does, to … enshrine reproductive freedom and access to contraception; we had already done it as it related to marriage equality,” McKeon said during today’s hearing. “Why shouldn’t we do the same as it relates to interracial marriage?”
McKeon said that the impetus for the legislation came from a legislative intern, who saw the outcome of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision overturning the constitutional right to abortion and decided that other court precedents guaranteeing fundamental rights could also be at risk. (The Supreme Court guaranteed the right to interracial marriage in its 1967 Loving vs. Virginia decision, though New Jersey has never actually had an anti-miscegenation law.)
The bill itself was not controversial – interracial marriage is not exactly a divisive topic in the New Jersey of 2023. Republican members of the committee, however, questioned the necessity of such legislation and its reference to the Dobbs decision in its bill statement.
“I don’t know where this issue is arising from,” Assemblyman Bob Auth (R-Old Tappan) said. “I think it’s being fabricated. I’m going to vote yes because look, if there’s even a scintilla of a chance that something will happen, I’d rather err on the side of caution and say fine, we’ll do this. But I think people want to come out and fabricate things that just aren’t happening.”
Today’s vote is the first time the bill has come up for discussion in either chamber. There’s still no Senate version of the bill, though McKeon said he’ll work on finding a Senate cosponsor and getting the bill to the governor’s desk.
“I would imagine that, when it does [come for a full vote], it would be unanimously supported in a bipartisan way,” McKeon said. “I think that maybe those in the opposition party want to avoid an uncomfortable discussion.”