By Tami Fitzgerald
Christian Action League
Victory in New Jersey
Once again a Northeastern State has rejected same-sex marriage. This time it was New Jersey through its elected representatives—the New Jersey Senate—that refused to legalize same-sex marriage. On January 7, the New Jersey Senate voted 20-14 to reject a measure that would have allowed gay couples to marry.
New Jersey is a textbook example of the stop-at-nothing strategy of gay rights advocates to legalize same-sex marriage. In July, 2004 New Jersey became one of the first states in the country, after California, to allow domestic partnerships for same-sex couples. However, that wasn’t good enough for gay rights activists who, two years later, convinced the New Jersey Supreme Court that domestic partnerships weren’t equal to marriage. The Court ordered the State Legislature to pass laws that would give equal rights to gay couples, but didn’t insist that the legal status be called “marriage.” Although the Supreme Court had no legal authority to order the legislature to enact legislation, the legislature did as instructed and passed a bill that created civil unions for gay couples and recognized civil unions from other states beginning in February, 2007.
But once again, the gay community was not satisfied. In 2009, it introduced legislation in the New Jersey Senate and the Assembly to legalize same-sex marriage. After postponing a December vote because proponents did not have the votes, the bill was finally voted on in early January this year. Outgoing Governor John Corzine had promised to sign the bill before leaving office on January 19th , because incoming Governor Chris Christie has promised to veto the bill. The Senate’s failure to pass the bill appears to have killed the effort.
Immediately following the vote, Garden State Equality and Lambda Legal announced their plans to go back to the New Jersey Supreme Court. They hope to convince the Court to invalidate the civil unions law and usher in same-sex marriage. Opponents of gay marriage said that they, too, were prepared for a legal fight. Jon Tomicki, a leader of the New Jersey Coalition to Preserve and Protect Marriage, said that legislators had already complied with the court order by enacting civil unions, and urged lawmakers to let the public cast its verdict on gay marriage in a referendum. “In 30 other states, voters have gotten the chance to decide,” Mr. Tomicki said. “There’s no reason why New Jerseyans shouldn’t have the same right.”
Len Deo, President of the New Jersey Family Policy Council, which is opposing same-sex marriage in New Jersey said: “The very last place the good people of New Jersey should want this important societal matter decided is in an unaccountable body where the will of those very same people can be totally ignored. There is no reason for the New Jersey Supreme Court to sidestep the will of the people and get involved in the definition of marriage.”
Prop. 8 Trial in California
In California, litigants have just finished the second full week of trial in the federal lawsuit challenging California’s Proposition 8. Seven million Californians voted to overrule the California Supreme Court’s decision to legalize gay marriage by defining marriage in the State’s Constitution as the union between only a man and a woman. California gay rights activists, instead of accepting the will of the majority, filed suit in federal district court in Sacramento claiming that Proposition 8 violates the federal Constitution. The trial started on January 11th.
The first week of trial the U.S. Supreme Court stepped in to prevent the trial judge from allowing the trial to be televised. The Supreme Court stated that the supporters of Proposition 8 had demonstrated the threat of harm if the trial was broadcast by showing how gay rights advocates in California had published the names of Proposition 8 supporters and caused them financial and personal harm.
Many of the witnesses for the plaintiffs in the case have tried to put religion on trial. Stanford Professor Gary Segura testified: “religion is the chief obstacle for gays’ and lesbians’ political progress.” Another expert read statements of Catholic and Southern Baptist doctrines into the record in an apparent attempt to show that Catholic and Southern Baptist doctrine is a form of bigotry. Supposedly, their next move is to subpoena two San Diego Christian pastors who emerged as leaders in the Prop. 8 fight, Pastor Jim Garlow and Pastor Miles MacPherson. For those of you who would like to follow the trial, Maggie Gallagher of the National Organization for Marriage is writing a trial blog.
Indiana Closer to a Vote on Marriage Amendment
The Indiana Senate Rules Committee approved a bill this week that would allow Indiana voters to decide if the state’s constitution should specifically bar marriages and civil unions between gay and lesbian couples. Now the measure goes to the full Senate, which has approved Marriage Amendment bills several times since 2005. The measure has never cleared the House, however.
Like North Carolina, Indiana has statutes that outlaw same-sex marriage. And, like North Carolina, the Indiana House Speaker B. Patrick Bauer, has repeatedly said amending the state’s constitution isn’t necessary because Indiana law already prohibits same-sex marriage. Indiana is one step closer than North Carolina to allowing the people of the State to vote on defining marriage in the Constitution, however, because neither the leadership in the North Carolina Senate nor the House will allow a vote on the bill.
New Massachusetts Senator Supports Marriage
Very few people probably missed the election of unlikely candidate Scott Brown, a Republican, to replace the late Senator Ted Kennedy in representing Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate. However, many may be unaware that Scott Brown voted for a state marriage amendment in Massachusetts and pledged to uphold the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). His opponent led the charge to get the Supreme Court to gut DOMA–the one federal law that protects marriage as the union of husband and wife. According to Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage, his election is a victory for marriage. “But it goes even deeper than that. Scott Brown’s victory is a massive repudiation by voters of politicians who ignore their voices and their values,” said Brown.
What this means for North Carolina
Marriage is winning around the country. The recent victories in Maine, New Jersey, and New York (click on our earlier stories on these victories) are indicators that the majority of Americans, even those in predominantly blue states like New England, still believe that marriage is between a man and a woman.
Although legislative leaders have taken the position in the past that North Carolina does not need a Constitutional Amendment defining marriage because it has statutes outlawing gay marriage, the fact remains that any court in the state could overturn those laws and usher in same-sex marriage. In the short legislative session that will begin in May, legislators will once again have the opportunity to vote on a bill that will allow the people of North Carolina to vote on this issue. The House and Senate leadership have ignored Marriage Amendment bills for the last 6 years. The recent victories around the country should make legislators fear ignoring the wishes of the people of the state another year, because voters will have an opportunity to replace them in November with true supporters of marriage.