New Jersey Initiates Marriage Equality, But Battle for Permanence Begins

New Jersey Coalition to Preserve and Protect Marriage leaders at a press conference

Anti-marriage equality organizations have formed the New Jersey Coalition to Preserve and Protect Marriage as LGBT advocates seek to legalize equal marriage rights. Once again, Catholics are on center stage as the debate over marriage equality intensifies in that state from both judicial and legislative angles.

The Coalition includes a handful of conservative organizations, as well as the Knights of Columbus State Council, the New Jersey Catholic Conference, and the National Organization for Marriage which has close Catholic ties. On Top Magazine reports Coalition members are already unleashing anti-gay remarks, with a Knights leader comparing marriage equality to polygamy and incest, as others have done in the past. As for alternatives, the Coalition echoes Governor Chris Christie in calling for a state referendum on the issue.

The anti-marriage equality effort is in response to a  judge’s September 27th court order that New Jersey issue marriage licenses to same-gender couples beginning October 21. Judge Mary Jacobson claimed same-gender couples would be denied equal protection under the law if the state continued with merely civil unions, as they would be unable to receive federal benefits in the wake of the US Supreme Court’s decisions in June.

Governor Chris Christie, a Catholic, has appealed the ruling to the state’s Supreme Court. With 2016 presidential aspirations, Christie has attempted to welcome LGBT rights in a broader sense and continue opposing marriage that would appeal to both moderates and Republicans respectively.

Judge Jacobson’s court order comes as the legislative side heats up as well. reports on reactions from pro-equality leaders who continue working on passing a marriage law, even as legal battles remain:

“Advocacy groups and Democratic state officials reacted quickly, cheering Jacobson’s decision and urging Christie to let it stand unchallenged. And vowing to fight it if Christie did appeal…

“We have been saying it for months and it stands true today: through litigation or legislation, we will win the dignity of marriage this year,” said Troy Stevenson, executive director of Garden State Equality. “We just won the first round through litigation and we will continue to fight until we guarantee marriage for all New Jersey couples.”

“Udi Ofer, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, said a coalition of groups pushing for gay marriage would also keep pressing state lawmakers for an override of Christie’s gay-marriage veto last year. The Democratic-controlled Legislature is nearly a dozen votes shy of being able to overturn the veto.”

Nearly 40% of New Jersey’s population identifies as Catholic, meaning the voice of Catholics will matter in speaking out to legislators and voting in a referendum, if one emerges. New Jersey also offers a prime moment for the Catholic hierarchy, Knights of Columbus, and those anti-equality lay people to heed Pope Francis’ new words and stop obsessing over marriage when true injustices abound.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

12 replies
  1. Ryan Sattler
    Ryan Sattler says:

    And the work for justice continues! May our “faithful Catholics”, who are in the pews, once again come forward and say YES to equality for all GOD’s people.

  2. duckman44625
    duckman44625 says:

    Why is it that the bishops and clarify – who have sworn obedience to the Pope – refuse to follow his lead/directive – to stop obsessing over gay/sexual issues ? They continue to sow seeds of rejection, hatred, exclusion in their continuing battle against marriage equality which although a sacrament in Cathoilicsrriages – is in the civil arena, a contract between two persons ? When will they image Christ to ALL people like Francis ?

  3. will
    will says:

    I wonder if there are any sensible people in the hierarchy of the Church that are watching the increasingly nasty rhetoric and behaviour emanating from NOM – which certainly began with strong ties to the Catholic Church. They are being investigated for funding violations and various blogs continue to report their growing ant-gay animus. They began as just against equal marriage – a position that some honest and decent people may take. But now they are increasingly hate-filled – and Brian Brown’s recent trip to Russia to persuade the Duma to pass their anti-gay legislation shows what they are really up to. Soon they will sit alongside the swivel-eyed loons like Bryan Fischer, Linda Hervey et al.

    Does the Catholic church led by Pope Francis really want to sit down with such a group now?

  4. Ned Flaherty
    Ned Flaherty says:

    Here are the details of Governor Christie requesting a freeze of the NJ judge’s order to begin issuing same-gender civil marriage licenses.

    On 1 October 2013, NJ Acting Attorney General John Hoffman appealed directly to the NJ Supreme Court (bypassing the NJ appeals court), and asked for expedited review. Hoffman also asked the Superior Court to delay implementation of its ruling until after the Supreme Court review.

    On 4 October 2013, plaintiffs told the court that NJ has failed to prove it risks any irreparable harm if it issues licenses, and has failed to prove that it is likely to win its appeal, and therefore asked the court to not delay the implementation of its ruling.

    A decision on Governor Christie’s request for a delay is expected shortly.

  5. Friends
    Friends says:

    Why New Jersey wants to align itself with socially retrograde backward bigotry absolutely baffles me. Just let them put it to a popular referendum vote. It will pass by a comfortable margin, thank you very much.

    • Ned Flaherty
      Ned Flaherty says:

      There are 2 overriding reasons to not conduct any popular vote on marriage equality.

      1. Human rights and civil liberties should never be subject to any popular vote. Women’s right to vote, interracial marriage, etc. would never have passed if decided by a popular vote.

      2. A year-long public anti-equality campaign inflicts enormous psychological damage upon LGBT people, couples, and especially children. The constant media drumbeat of “the other side” vowing to oppress LGBT people forever, using religion as an excuse, is not healthy or productive, and it often incites additional discrimination, hatred, and violence.

  6. Larry Quirk
    Larry Quirk says:

    Folks seem to forget that we have here in NJ a Supreme Court ruling already that holds that gay couples are entitled to all the rights of marriage but they did not call it such and sent it to the legislature to create laws to effectuate that ruling. This puts us ahead of many other states and obviates the need for a referendum. The NJ Supreme Court needs only to go that extra step which I assume it will based on the developments on the Federal level. Hopefully, we will have a race between the legislature and the Court to see who gets to marriage equality first.

  7. Friends
    Friends says:

    It appears to me that Gov. Christie — a Catholic himself — is the sole obstacle against the achievement of full marriage equality in New Jersey. All of the significant Court decisions on this human rights issue are running against him — but yet he insists on dragging out the fight interminably, apparently just for vindictive and spiteful personal reasons. Perhaps it’s time for one of Pope Francis’ surprise personal phone calls to be placed to him, to tell him to just let it be, as decided by the Courts.

  8. Larry Quirk
    Larry Quirk says:

    I think that Christie and the Coalition have lost. When Christie appealed to the Supreme Court for a stay in issuing same sex couple marriage licenses, he had to show that he had a reasonable chance of prevailing on the underlying issue in the Supreme Court as one of the factors to have the Court grant a stay. The Supreme Court denied the stay unanimously. It seems clear that they [the ones who will be deciding the underlying issue] do not feel he will prevail ie gay marriage will come to NJ. And don’t forget, Christie has no real interest in NJ. His eye is on the Tea Party support in all the other states. He can now “blame” gay marriage in NJ on activist judges.


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  1. […] marriage licenses for same-gender couples, and it appears protests from Governor Chris Christie and anti-equality leaders will not stall progress. Many reports, including on Bondings 2.0, have focused on the Catholic […]

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