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N.J. gay marriage
foes gather signatures

N.J. gay marriage
foes gather signatures

Same-sex marriage opponents launched a petition drive Monday in hopes of persuading lawmakers to amend the state constitution to include a definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

The drive comes a week before New Jersey begins to allow gay couples to legally unite in civil unions.

Legislative leaders have refused to allow lawmakers to vote on a proposal to amend the state constitution to include the traditional definition of marriage. Unlike other states where citizens can gather petitions and get a measure on the ballot, New Jersey has no referendum provision.

John Tomicki, president of the New Jersey Coalition to Preserve and Protect Marriage, said his group will try to get at least 20,000 signatures, hoping to persuade legislative leaders to allow a vote on the proposal.

''Let's have the people decide this issue, once and for all,'' said Assemblyman Michael Doherty, a Republican.

Steven Goldstein, chairman of Garden State Equality, said, ''The founders of the New Jersey constitution recognized that civil rights are a matter of constitutional rights, not popular ones.''

New Jersey lawmakers voted in December to create civil unions, a step in gay rights that only three states have matched or surpassed, after the state supreme court in October forced their hand. The court ruled in favor of extending all the rights of same-sex couples beyond the domestic-partner benefits they now have.

Vermont and Connecticut already have civil union laws. Massachusetts is the only state to allow same-sex marriages.

Meanwhile, a bill that would make Indiana the 27th state to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman easily passed the Republican-controlled Senate on Monday and heads to the Democratic-controlled House.

If the House approves the measure, it would be presented to Indiana voters in 2008. (AP)

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