(Trenton, NJ) The New Jersey Senate Judiciary Committee handed proponents of marriage equality an important first-round victory last night, approving a bill that could make New Jersey the sixth state to allow same-sex marriage.
The panel’s 7- 6 approval came shortly after ten o’clock Monday night, after more than seven hours of emotional and at times highly personal testimony and discussion.
The committee hearing room, packed with gay marriage backers, erupted in cheers and applause with the vote tally.
Afterwards, Steven Goldstein, executive director of Garden State Equality, spoke to a euphoric gathering. “The marriage equality movement in America starts again right here,” he said. Photo
The crowd shouted back, “Right here.”
The legislation now heads to the full Senate for a showdown vote on Thursday, Dec. 11, which is also expected to be very close. Judiciary committee chair Senator Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen), who voted against the measure, said, “ There is no doubt about it, if [the bill] does come off the Senate floor, it will have a lot of momentum.” But he told reporters, “As of this point, I don’t believe the votes have been secured to get it off the floor. I am quite sure they do not have the votes at this time.”
Garden State Equality, the state’s leading gay civil rights organization, fielded an impressive show of force all day throughout the Statehouse and committee hearings. Altogether, about 1,300 marriage equality backers crowded into the Capitol, many wearing dark blue marriage equality T-shirts, marked with the tag line “Equality, the American dream.”
Beforehand, gay marriage proponents met at nearby hotel to map out the day’s activities. En masse, they trekked a short distance to the Statehouse, banners in hand and voices singing.
Estimates of gay marriage opponents numbered at several hundred. Testimony during the committee hearing covered a full range of concerns including differences of opinions over how the bill might affect religious liberty, legal and civil rights issues, and access to medical health insurance and hospital visitation... Read complete article - By Chuck Colbert, Keen News Service – 365gay.com