The Advocate July/Aug 2022
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New Jersey Legislators Vote to Protect Marriage Equality

Loretta Weinberg and Stephen Sweeney

New Jersey is enshrining marriage equality into state law as a means to fend off any threat from the conservative-majority U.S. Supreme Court.

Same-sex couples in New Jersey have had the right to marry since 2013, due to a ruling from state courts, and then the U.S. Supreme Court took marriage equality nationwide with its 2015 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges. But LGBTQ+ activists and allies in the state have noted that abortion rights may be in danger due to a case recently heard by the nation’s highest court, and they fear marriage equality could be imperiled next.

“We fought to correct the injustice that denied these rights for too many loving couples for far too long,” New Jersey Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg said, according to NJ.com. “We don’t want to see those rights lost to an archconservative agenda of recent Supreme Court appointees.”

If the high court were to overturn Obergefell, states would still be free to allow and recognize same-sex marriages — but they also would be free to ban them. There is no case currently threatening marriage rights, but some conservative justices have said they would like to see Obergefell overturned, and the right wing may be encouraged by the challenge to abortion rights. The New Jersey law, however, will be an extra precaution against any threat.

The New Jersey House and Senate both passed the marriage equality bill Monday, and Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, is expected to sign it into law. Murphy has not addressed the legislation specifically, but at a Monday press conference, he said, “It’s pretty clear where we are on gay marriage.”

Moments before the bill passed, Senate President Stephen Sweeney apologized for his vote against marriage equality legislation in 2010, something he has done before. “This is about acting to ensure equal treatment and civil rights for all New Jerseyans, including same-sex couples,” he added, urging senators to approve the new bill unanimously.

They came close — the Senate vote was 35-4, with four Republicans opposing the bill and one not voting. The House passed it by a margin of 53-10, with four abstentions.

Christian Fuscarino, executive director of Garden State Equality, praised legislators for passing the bill to “ensure New Jersey not only continues to lead the nation on issues of equality but safeguards them for decades to come,” NJ.com reports.

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