Marriage Equality wants vote in 2008, not during ’07 lame duck

Supporters of marriage equality say they have 19 votes in the Senate and 39 in the Assembly – two votes short of passing a same sex marriage law – and are “thrilled, strategically” that legislative leaders have decided not to post the bill during the lame duck session, according to an e-mail sent by Garden State Equality President Steven Goldstein and obtained by PolitickerNJ.com. Goldstein says his organization’s focus in lame duck is on hate crimes legislation.

“We put a ton of resources into the 2007 elections and it paid off. There will be no excuses (not) to pass a marriage equality bill in 2008,” Goldstein wrote. “Quite frankly, it would be a snap for us to gin up three times the calls and emails to legislators that the right-wing is doing now. We've done that time and again over the past couple of years, to the point where legislators have called us begging us to stop.”

Read Goldstein’s e-mail:

I've gotten some calls about the article in this morning's Star-Ledger saying that the marriage equality bill isn't being posted this lame duck session of the outgoing legislature. Not only is this of zero surprise to us at Garden State Equality, we're also thrilled, strategically. You know our message over and over again: 2008. 2007 hasn't even been in our thinking. We agree with the decision of Senate President Codey and Speaker Roberts not to post the bill this lame duck.

The key here is the composition of the incoming legislature. In the 2007 elections, we picked up four votes for marriage equality in the Senate, vital in a relatively small body. By our count, in the incoming Senate, before we even start lobbying, we'll be 19 Senators who are solid "yes" votes or leans "yes" votes, with our needing 21 votes to win. In the incoming Assembly — where vote counts in a larger body can vary more — we can project at least 39 solidly "yes" votes or leans "yes" votes, with our needing 41 votes to win. We can also project clearing 41 votes in the incoming Assembly, but the worst thing in lobbying is rose-colored glasses.

As advocates, we have to do our job, too — putting the Senate and Assembly within reach so that when we approach legislative leaders to help us finish the task, the task is reasonable. That's why we worked so hard in the 2007 election and did so amazingly, bucking the trend of a year where not all progressives and progressive causes did well, to say the least. We put a ton of resources into the 2007 elections and it paid off. There will be no excuses to pass a marriage equality bill in 2008.

Quite frankly, it would be a snap for us to gin up three times the calls and emails to legislators that the right-wing is doing now. We've done that time and again over the past couple of years, to the point where legislators have called us begging us to stop.

The difference, of course, is that our calls and emails are really from New Jerseyans, and not from professional right-wing activists from places like Utah. The right-wing is in free-fall panic because the failure of New Jersey's civil union law to provide equality to same-sex couples — as marriage would — is moving new legislators to our side all the time. As scores and scores of witnesses have testified over seven hours of testimony before the New Jersey Civil Union Review Commission, the civil union law is a disaster, and to say otherwise is a political fabrication.

Friends, polls can gauge horse-race numbers, where we do well in New Jersey, but they cannot gauge intensity. The fact is, opponents of marriage equality in New Jersey aren't anywhere near as intense as we supporters in our socially progressive state. That's why our opponents have to bring in out-of-state ringers to do their calls and emails.

We've made a conscious decision to rope-a-dope the right wing now. Let the right-wing exhaust itself silly during this lame duck. We'll turn the burners back on high after lame duck.

Indeed, our focus this lame-duck is on a hate-crimes bill, introduced in the Assembly a couple of weeks ago and in the Senate today, that should be a piece of cake for legislative leaders to post and get passed. We've worked on the bill with Attorney General Ann Milgram's office. The bill is as desperately needed, yet as noncontroversial as can be — we haven't met anyone who opposes it. The state's hate-crimes law hasn't been updated in years, and an FBI report just came out ranking New Jersey #2, tragically, in the number of hate crimes among all U.S. states.

This isn't merely an LGBT bill, it's a bill to help all minorities affected by hate crimes.

The bill's primary sponsors in the Assembly are Fred Caraballo, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Upendra Chivukula and John McKeon, with Gordon Johnson and Mila Jasey as cosponsors. The bill's primary sponsors in the Senate are Barbara Buono and Loretta Weinberg, with Ray Lesniak and Joe Vitale as cosponsors.

Marriage Equality wants vote in 2008, not during ’07 lame duck