Assembly to hear marriage equality bill in committee on Thursday

TRENTON – Marriage equality was moved along in the Senate this week, and next week the Assembly will be joining the action.

The Assembly Judiciary Committee will meet Thursday to hear testimony on A1, the Marriage Equality and Religious Exemption Act, which would eliminate civil unions that have been in place since 2007. Proponents of marriage equality argue that civil unions have not provided equal treatment to same-sex couples.

Bill sponsor, Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, (D-15), Trenton, said in a statement, “The creation of civil unions has produced a separate-but-equal system, and as we know from our history classes, separate-but-equal is as unconstitutional as it is inherently unequal. This law would make a significant difference in providing equality to same-sex New Jersey couples and their children.”

The bill also provides that no clergy would be required to conduct the same-sex ceremonies, should they choose not to. Other clergy that are interested in performing same-sex marriages argued last week in the Senate that they are being denied that right under the current law.

“All evidence shows us that New Jersey’s civil union law falls far short in providing true equality,” said Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, (D-34), East Orange, who is also sponsoring the bill. “Civil unions send a message that same-sex couples and their families are not equal to married couples in the eyes of the law. This is the same message we heard from Jim Crow segregation laws. Separate treatment was wrong then. Separate treatment is wrong now.”

The committee meets at 10 a.m. in Committee Room 4.

Assembly to hear marriage equality bill in committee on Thursday