TRENTON – The state Senate approved the marriage equality bill S1, by a 24-16 vote Monday afternoon, a move that pleased supporters who said it will put the Garden State in the forefront on the same-sex marriage issue.
The vote was met with rousing applause.
The vote was largely along party lines, but a handful of Republicans, Sen. Diane Allen (R-7) and Sen. Jennifer Beck (R-12) of Red Bank were in favor of the bill.
The Senate chambers and gallery were filled with supporters and opponents of the controversial legislation.
Senate President Steve Sweeney said it “is a right thing and a just thing,” to vote for the bill. He cited several stories where civil unions have fallen short of providing equal protections that married couples enjoy.
“There’s only one solution; marriage,” he said. “Marriage is not about religion. It never was and never will be.”
Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Washington and New Hampshire are among the states that have green-lighted gay marriage, he said.
Sweeney pointed out that in other states, the bills were approved with the help of Republican support.
“You could be that hero,” he said. “Now is your moment.”
Sen. Loretta Weinberg, of (D-Teaneck), the prime sponsor of the bill, described the civil union law as “flawed,” “undefined” and “vague.”
“It’s time for New Jersey to get on the right side of history …and approve marriage equality for all of our residents,” she said.
She added that opposition to same sex marriage is not based on morality.
“It’s steeped in prejudice.”
She added that if one doesn’t like gay marriage, “don’t enter into a gay marriage,” a remark that received a smattering of laughter.
Weinberg added that putting the question up on a ballot is not enough, saying it’s akin to a “cut and run” on the politicians’ side.
“The will of the people is on display in this chamber.”
However, Sen. Gerry Cardinale (R-39) of Demarest slammed S1, the same-sex marriage bill, dismissing it as pandering and one that would break tradition, discriminate other couples and create more problems.
He said marriages have always been “unions of different genders,” involving one male and one female.
Cardinale added that the bill threatens to “change thousands of years of human history” and “reordering our thinking.”
He cautioned the bill would open a “Pandora’s box.”
“The unintended consequences could be more than we imagined,” he said.
But Beck said the bill is about providing equal rights.
“It’s not about the changing the definition of marriage, so much as it’s about providing the same benefits,” she said. “Our civil union law has not provided that protection.”
“We should focus on protecting all individuals.”