Tuesday, September 29, 2009

GOP wants public to vote on marriage - NJ.com

GOP wants public to vote on marriage - NJ.com

Mary Fuchs

Republican lawmakers and socially conservative activists yesterday renewed their push for a constitutional amendment so voters -- rather than lawmakers -- would decide whether gay marriage should be legal in New Jersey.

Momentum is slowly growing among Democrats in the Legislature to pass a bill allowing same-sex marriages during the lame duck session following the November general election.

But Republican lawmakers at a Statehouse news conference said they preferred an amendment on the 2010 November ballot that would propose changing the state's constitution to permit marriage only between a man and a woman.

Sen. Gerald Cardinale (R-Bergen) yesterday said Gov. Jon Corzine made a deal with another prominent lawmaker to vote on it during a lame-duck session that follows Election Day.

"I can say I know that there was a conversation between the governor and a key chairman because I was in the room. After, not before the election, was their determination," said Cardinale.

Responding to Cardinale's assertion, Democratic State Committee Chairman Joseph Cryan called it "perhaps the most ridiculous accusation in the gubernatorial race so far from the Republicans."

"The governor's on the record supporting fairness and equality for everyone," Cryan said. "In our state, there's no mystery to that."

During a forum at Rider University last week, Corzine said it's unlikely he would support a ballot question to decide the definition of marriage because he believes decisions on marriage equality should be made by elected officials.

"I understand this is a deeply divisive issue," Corzine said. "All people are created equal."

The lawmakers and advocates at the Statehouse news conference yesterday pointed to other states that have already limited marriage to heterosexual couples through constitutional amendments. "Thirty states, three-fifths of the United States, have voted to amend their state constitution to make marriage one man, one woman. And I sincerely believe that would happen here in New Jersey if the people had the right to vote," said Gregory Quinlan, Director of Government Affairs for New Jersey Family First.

"This is not like raising the sales tax one percent or lowering it one percent. This is a far deeper-reaching issue and it should be decided by the people," said Cardinale.

Garden State Equality, the leading advocate for gay marriage, criticized the lawmakers for renewing their efforts against gay marriage on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar.

Claire Heininger contributed to this report. Statehouse Bureau reporter Mary Fuchs may be reached at (609) 989-0341 or mfuchs@starledger.com.

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