Main | Wednesday, December 09, 2009

NJ Marriage Vote Postponed

Tomorrow's scheduled NJ Senate vote on marriage equality has been postponed until the bill can be heard by the state Assembly Judiciary Committee. The lower body has not yet made a vote on the issue.
Sens. Ray Lesniak (D-Union) and Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen) said the bill -- which was up for passage on Thursday -- instead will likely be introduced in the Assembly Judiciary Committee in preparation for a vote by the lower house. The lawmakers said they expect Senate President Richard Codey (D-Essex) to agree to the delay. Codey, who had posted the bill on Thursday's agenda, could not immediately be reached for comment this afternoon. Lesniak said he still expects a vote on same-sex marriage in both houses before the end of the lame-duck legislative session in January.

Advocates are pushing for passage of the bill before Gov. Jon Corzine leaves office Jan. 19. Corzine supports the measure, while incoming Gov. Chris Christie says he will veto it. While even proponents conceded this week that passage was in doubt, Lesniak and Weinberg said they were not postponing the debate because they lacked the 21 votes to succeed in the Senate. They said they want Assembly members to engage in the public dialogue and hear the testimony from both sides that senators already have been exposed to. "We think this is the fairest way to proceed, and anybody on the other side can say whatever they want to say," Weinberg said.
A positive vote from the NJ Senate could have pushed over at least a few votes in the state Assembly, so this isn't great news. And here I was all set for another eight-hour live blogathon tomorrow night, something I've done, what, four times in the last six weeks?

UPDATE: According to an excerpted blog post on Blue Jersey, the postponement IS a good thing. But the Assembly vote may not come until early January, perilously close to Chris Christie's inauguration on the 19th.

Here is the bottom line: the votes are not there in the Senate. And it appears as though they are there in the Assembly - to clear the both the Judiciary committee and to pass the full house. Assembly Speaker Joe Roberts is unlikely to give dates for the upcoming hearing and subsequent floor debate, but I understand it could be early January. Initially, members of the Assembly had said they would not consider gay marriage until the Senate passed the bill. That thinking seems to have now been turned on its head.

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