Leery of poll data, GOP legislators call for a vote on gay marriage

With an independent poll released this morning showing more New Jerseyans in favor of gay marriage than against it, three of the state’s most conservative legislators repeated their call for the issue to be put to a popular vote.

“Some people try to use these polls as a replacement for the democratic process in which every citizen has an opportunity to participate,” said Assemblywoman Alison Littell McHose (R-Franklin) in a press release. “A few hundred people answering a telephone solicitation is not a vote.”

Today’s Monmouth University/Gannett poll found that 48% of respondents favored gay marriage, while 43% opposed it.

McHose sponsored legislation in the assembly that would create a ballot question to amend the state constitution to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Her district-mate, state Sen. Steve Oroho, is the prime sponsor of the senate version.

Fourty-three percent of the poll’s respondents said they favored a ban like the one McHose proposes. Fifty percent said they opposed it.

Oroho said that allowing gays to marry would affect everyone and pose an “enormous change to our society.”

Fellow 24th District Assemblyman Gary Chiusano (R-Franklin) compared his legislative team’s effort to California’s Proposition 8, which passed in November.

“The people of California spoke loud and clear when they voted to uphold traditional marriage,” he said. “We have a duty to democracy to insist on a referendum here in New Jersey.”

Steven Goldstein, who chairs Garden State Equality – the state’s most visible Gay rights organization – said he was not surprised by the conservative reaction.

“The only surprise about that press release is they left off their fourth colleague, John Birch,” said Goldstein.

Proponents of gay marriage argue that it is a basic civil right and, as such, should not be decided by a vote.

“The hypocrisy is that the people today who are saying it’s not a matter for the legislature, that it’s a matter for the popular vote, had been saying that it’s a matter for the legislature until they realized that they may lose this battle,” said Goldstein.

Goldstein said that today’s independent poll gave credence to his own organization’s past surveys, which drew similar results.

“Actually it’s a bit gratifying, because Garden State Equality has taken polls over the years with a similar margin in New Jersey. In fact our margins have always been a little less, and the right wing has always said to us ‘This isn’t an independent poll,’… in a taunting manner,’” said Goldstein. “Well guess what? The right wing has its wish. There’s been an independent poll. Support for marriage equality is increasing.”

Leery of poll data, GOP legislators call for a vote on gay marriage