A New Jersey bill to allow gay marriage might not go to a vote in the Legislature before the session ends in January and Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine, who supports the measure, is succeeded by Republican Chris Christis, who does not.
State Sen. Paul Sarlo said he would not bring up the bill in the Judiciary Committee he chairs unless enough votes exist to pass it on to the full Senate. The Bergen County Democrat said that, currently, the bill does not have sufficient support in the committee for a recommendation to the Senate.
“Today, as I stand here, we do not have the votes in the Judiciary Committee,” Sarlo said after he and Gov.-elect Chris Christie toured the Xanadu entertainment complex under construction in the Meadowlands. “Until somebody can demonstrate that we have the votes in the Judiciary Committee, it will not be posted.”
Gay rights activists are pushing lawmakers to adopt a bill before Corzine leaves office in January.
Corzine has said he would sign the legislation to allow same-sex unions. But Gov.-elect Christie has said he would veto such a bill.
“I’m not going to put people in harm’s way where they have to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ when we don’t have the votes to get it out (of committee),” Sarlo said Friday.
The bill must clear the Judiciary Committee before it can be voted on by the Senate. There, Senate President Richard Codey would control whether it is put to a vote. It also must be voted on by the Assembly before it goes to the governor.
Assembly Speaker Joe Roberts has said it’s not certain the chamber will bring up the issue this year, either. He has said he does not want to post it unless it appears the Assembly has enough votes to ensure its passage.
Sarlo was asked about gay marriage after he and Christie got a firsthand look at Xanadu, the $2 billion privately funded retail and entertainment complex that has been plagued by money problems and construction delays. Christie, Sarlo and Carl Goldberg, chairman of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which operates the Giants Stadium, the Izod center and the Meadowlands Racetrack, also met with representatives of the developer.
Gay marriage is now legal in five states — Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont. Vermont and New Hampshire are the only states where legislatures approved gay marriage bills. In the three other states, gay marriages resulted from court orders.
Lawmakers in both New York and New Jersey are weighing whether to vote on the measure.
In New York, the state Assembly has passed a bill, but the state Senate has not, and advocates and opponents say the measure doesn’t have enough support to pass.
It could also be a close vote in New Jersey, where gay couples can enter civil unions, which provide the legal protections of marriage but not the name. Gay rights advocates say civil unions are not well understood and do not create true equality.
Gay marriage opponents have surmised that the New Jersey Assembly has enough votes to pass the bill, but the Senate might not.
Associated Press Writer Geoff Mulvihillin Mount Laurel contributed to this report.
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