New Jersey and DC on Gay Marriage

We followed the civil marriage debate in last week’s New York State Senate pretty closely. And obviously we were disappointed by the outcome. However, there may be a chance for New Jersey to take an important step forward on this issue later this week. A bill that would allow same-sex marriages in the state appears to be headed to its state Senate for a vote on Thursday after it was released by a committee on Monday morning. It was narrowly approved (7-6) after over eight hours of debate and testimony.

The bill includes an amendment to clarify that religious organizations would not be forced to sanction or participate in a marriage that they “disagreed with.”

It’s unclear whether or not this bill will pass in the Senate tomorrow. It has serious opponents that are organizing to block the measure. For example, The New Jersey Catholic Conference recently delivered more than 150,000 signatures asking legislators to enforce civil union law instead of approving a same-sex marriage bill.

It would be great if New Jersey passes the bill tomorrow, especially after the two significant setbacks of New York last week and Maine earlier this fall. If it does in fact pass, it would join five other states that allow gay couples to wed. Advocates hope to pass the bill in the legislature so Governor Jon Corzine (who supports the bill) can sign it into law before he leaves office next month. The timing is crucial because Republic Chris Christie, who defeated Corzine and will take over as Governor said that he would veto any gay marriage legislation.

There is also some other good news to report out of Washington D.C. Its city council voted 11-2 earlier this month to approve the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009. The United States Congress will have 30 days to take action on the act. Congress can choose to either vote on the bill, or they can choose to let it go into law as it is. If they decide not to act then same sex couples would be allowed to marry in Washington D.C.