TRENTON – After hearing impassioned pleas from four legislators who support same-sex marriage, opponents argued against the bill on the basis of process.
Recently sworn-in state Sen. Michael Doherty (R-Washington Twp) gave his first speech in the upper house, stating that this issue, like many others, should be decided by referendum – not by the legislature or courts. Proponents of same-sex marriage argue that it is a civil rights issue and should not be left to a majority vote.
“I happen to represent a large constituency which is rather upset with being disenfranchised on the major issues of the day,” he said.
Doherty held that the definition of marriage remained the same for 1,000 years.
“Suddenly today, there’s implications that you’re discriminating against folks when you want to maintain that definition,” he said. “Suddenly today you’re somehow crazy if you want the people of New Jersey to decide this issue like they have in 31 other states.”
State Sen. Gerald Cardinale (R-Demarest) argued that the majority of states have held public votes on same-sex marriage, and have consistently refused to recognize it.
“There are many who believe that this bill will change our entire culture. And in my view so momentous a change should be, must be submitted to the people for a public vote,” he said. “Now my view is not without precedent, and it is not an isolated notion.”
State Sen. Sean Kean (R-Wall) – who was considered one of several moderate Republicans who might support the bill – denied that his decision against voting for it had anything to do with the pressure that conservative activists put on him once his name leaked as a potential supporter. He joked that someone told him his district was “the gayest in the state.”
Kean also took offense to the notion that the bill’s opponents were in the same historical boat as opponents of integration and other civil rights issues.
“I hear some words being thrown around here today: words like ‘what are we afraid of?’ words like ‘prejudice,’ words like ‘primary elections,’” he said. ‘Well, I take offense to those characterizations of people who don’t agree with the proponents of this bill.”
Although several Democrats are expected to vote no on the bill, only one of them — state Sen. John Girgenti (D-Hawthorne) – spoke.
Girgenti said that he supports equal rights but that the bill “fundamentally” changes the nature of marriage.
“It is a major cultural change that needs to be digested by the public,” he said.