TRENTON – Energized Democratic leaders today vowed to get marriage equality done two years after failing to see it through to fruition.
“This is a very bright moment in the history of New Jersey and the history of civil rights,” said longtime marriage equality champion state Sen. Loretta Weinbrg (D-37). “I picture a very bright future for it.”
Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) famously sat on his hands two years ago, abstaining on the vote.
Poised to go statewide as a U.S. Senate candidate with the opening of a federal PAC, Sweeney this time says he’s on board – along with Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-34).
“It’s not easy to admit when you make mistakes,” said Sweeney, co-sponsor of S-1. “I made a terrible mistake for a political calculaton. Marriage equality is not about religion. It’s about civil rights.”
“Well, it took a couple of years, but Steve Sweeney and I are finally playing on the same team,” said Garden State Equality Founder Steven Goldstein. “He’ll go down as one of the great civil rights leaders of our time.”
Goldstein also lauded Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-15), the bill’s co-sponsor in the assembly and only openly gay lawmaker in the legislature.
Marriage equality died on the senate floor last time, 14-20.
Sweeney was the only abstaining Democrat from back then who showed up at today’s press conference. Not in attendance were state Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-36) and state Sen. Jim Beach (D-6).
Hard “no” votes from then also sat this one out, including state Sen. Jeff Van Drew (D-1), state Sen. Ronald Rice (D-28), state Sen. Shirley Turner (D-15), state Sen. Fred Madden (D-4), and former state Sen. John Girgenti (D-35).
Democrats would need a two-thirds majority to get the bill past a veto-ready Gov. Chris Christie.
Weinberg said the Democrats here would have the additional support of state Sen. Jen Beck (R-11). “I think we’re going to have more Republican votes,” said Sweeney. “We have at least 21 now, I think we’re going to have more.”
The senate president called on Christie to open his heart “as I have,” to the issue as a matter of civil rights.
“We’re going to work toward an override, if necessary,” said Sweeney. “As far as his party, that’s a minority. The Tea Partiers are not the face of the Republican Party.”
“I’ve never seen a bill spin so fast,” said Goldstein. “It’s like a dradle on steroids.”