The New Jersey Assembly passed a bill to legalize same-sex marriage this afternoon 42-33, only three days after the state Senate passed companion legislation in a 24-16 vote. While two Republican state senators crossed the aisle to support the bill on Monday, all Republican assemblymen voted against the bill today. (Not, obviously, that it mattered.) The bill was widely expected to pass, and it makes New Jersey the fifth state to legalize same-sex marriage through a legislative vote. Assemblyman Reed Gusciara, a Democrat who voted in favor of the measure, said in a statement that "this is probably one of the highlights of my legislative tenure — no matter what the ultimate outcome may be." (That last part sounds ominous! We'll get to it in a second.)
Washington passed similar legislation just last week; the Maryland state assembly is debating its own version right this minute: have we reached that tipping point where the dominoes in the battle for marriage equality start falling swiftly?
Not quite! Because even though this bill was passed in New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie has promised to take "swift action" and veto the measure if it passes. (It may even happen tonight.) Christie stated that he believes the issue should be put to a statewide referendum:
I think that this is not an issue that should rest solely in my hands, in the hands of the Senate president or in the hands of the speaker or the other 118 members of the Legislature," he said. "Let's let the people of New Jersey decide what is right for the state.
Aw, it's cute that he doesn't understand how a representative democracy works. (Need to brush up on your Schoolhouse Rock, Gov. Christie?) But you may be asking yourself, if polls show that a majority of New Jerseyans support marriage equality anyway, why would Christie want to go through this seemingly unnecessary extra step just to arrive at the same outcome? The answer: Christie still might want to run for president one day. Signing a same-sex marriage bill into law probably wouldn't win him many points with the GOP. Better to veto the bill, extend the process, and come out with a nice, shiny, anti-gay-marriage platform. (Even if New Jersey still ends up with marriage equality at the end.) After all, what's a governor's top priority if not his own political future, amiright?