Codey, Lesniak and Baroni advocate for marriage equality bill

TRENTON – In his floor speech in favor of the same-sex marriage bill, state Sen. Richard Codey (D-Roseland) attempted to put today’s vote in a long line of civil rights struggles.

Codey looked back to the struggles for women’s suffrage, interracial marriage and the elimination of segregation.

“Can you imagine that in our nation’s history, women and some men had to protest – had to march – so that women in this country had the right to vote.  It’s so hard to imagine that that movement took 70 years before females in this country had the right to vote,” he said.  “Looking back, you have to say to yourself, what were they thinking?  What were they afraid of?”

Expanding on the point of women’s suffrage, state Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-Elizabeth) used it to argue against the bill’s opponents call to put it to a referendum “just as the New Jersey legislature did in 1914, when the voters rejected women’s right to vote by a 58%-42% margin.”

Lesniak, who painstakingly polished his speech all day, listed several Christian denominations and other reilgius organizations that support same-sex marriage, arguing that not allowing it is akin some religions over others.

“Unless we vote for marriage equality, we will be interfering with the religious beliefs of many of our citizens,” he said before ending his speech choking back tears while reading a letter from a constituent thanking him for fighting for the right of his brother to marry.

State Sen. Bill Baroni (R-Hamilton) — the lone Republican who is expected to vote in favor of the bill — made the point that employers governed by the Federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) are not bound by state law that requires companies to provide health benefits to civil union couples.

“To those who say let’s just make civil unions work, you’re still leaving out half the companies in our state.  So you can’t fix it,” he said.

Codey, Lesniak and Baroni advocate for marriage equality bill