Sweeney lauds marriage equality bill; Scutari sets vote for 2:30

TRENTON – Sen. President Steve Sweeney delivered an impassioned defense today of the same-sex marriage equality bill, reversing his course of more than two years ago when he abstained on the matter.

The bill died on the Senate floor in January 2010, 20-14. Sweeney abstained and has since said it was the biggest mistake of his political career.

“This issue is not about religion,’’ he said, “it is about civil rights.’’

That right must be extended to all, not certain select groups, he said. “Once this becomes law, nothing changes for any religion in New Jersey.’’

The hearing today comes at a time when a recent poll showed more support than ever before in New Jersey for marriage equality, and a day after Gov. Chris Christie nominated an openly gay African-American for a state Supreme Court judgeship.

“Confusion about what civil union means still exist,’’ Sweeney said.

This must be corrected, said Sweeney, and “despite the nay sayers the sky hasn’t fallen.’’

He referenced both Martin Luther King and Ron Paul in exhorting the committee to advance S1 to applause from a packed committee room.

Committee Chairman Nicholas Scutari said the hearing will end at 2:30 when a vote will be taken. He said that testimony on the bill will be limited to three minutes.

Sweeney lauds marriage equality bill; Scutari sets vote for 2:30