As Governor Chris Christie promised to do so months ago, he vetoed New Jersey’s gay marriage bill that passed the Congress on Friday. Christie believes that New Jersey voters should have the option to decide weather or not gay marriage should be allowed. However a ballot referendum or a congressional override does not seem likely in the future.
According to USA Today, Christie stated that “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.”
“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.”
Democrats in the State Senate and House are disappointed by Christie’s actions but not at all surprised.
Reed Gusciora, one of two openly gay state politicians said on Christie’s veto, “It’s unfortunate that the governor would let his own personal ideology infringe on the rights of thousands of New Jerseyans. 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.”
However, Senate President Steve Sweeny was far more critical and to the point, “He had a chance to do the right thing, and failed miserably,” said Sweeny.
Many opponents of this bill claim that gay citizen’s civil liberties are being trampled on. However, supporters claim that the definition of marriage should not be constitutionally expanded on.
The bill did offer a religious op-out clause. This would allow any clergy member or religious organization to deny performing a marriage ceremony to gay couples.
Steve Goldstein President of Garden State Equality, the states largest gay rights group mused that, “he won’t veto the bill because he’s anti-gay. He’ll veto the bill because the 2016 South Carolina presidential primary electorate is anti-gay.”
This is a vital point consider when evaluating the gay movement in New Jersey. Republican big wigs from all over the country have urged Governor Christie to throw his name into the hat for the 2012 presidential election. However, he answered all the calls with claims that he is not ready, nor willing to do so yet. In 2016 though this may be a very different story, and approving a gay marriage bill would probably serve as political suicide.
Six states across the country have now legalized gay marriage including Washington D.C. This debate is far from over and will certainly cause political divisions in the coming years.