New Jersey Senate pulls bill codifying same-sex “marriage”
TRENTON, NJ, December 17 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The New Jersey Senate has pulled a bill that would legislate same-sex "marriage" in the state. Political leaders cited advice from national same-sex "marriage" advocacy organization Lambda Legal, and said they plan to resume their efforts in the 2014-2015 legislative session.
New Jersey Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg said she decided not to pursue S. 3109 on Tuesday because Lambda Legal said the judicial decision that allowed same-sex “marriage” licenses to be given was satisfactory. Some Democrats in the state Senate, including Weinberg, had expressed concerns that the September 27 Superior Court decision failed to respect religious freedom.
Mercer County Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson found same-sex "marriage" to be a constitutional right, and when the state Supreme Court strongly indicated it would allow homosexuals to receive marriage licenses, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie backed off from his previous strong efforts in favor of traditional marriage.
In the New Jersey Assembly, Deputy Majority Leader Reed Gusciora – one of two openly gay Assemblyman – had introduced similar legislation, A. 4566, on December 12. A spokesperson for Gusciora told LifeSiteNews.com that the bill is not being pushed, and that the issue will be raised again in the 2014-2015 session. The New Jersey legislature is in a lame-duck session.
Gusciora told LifeSiteNews.com that his original bill – A. 1, which was vetoed by Christie – had a religious exemption to clarify the law was “not going to force the Catholic Church to marry gays. We did that for conservative Democrats, even though it was unnecessary.”
According to Gusciora, if social conservatives were concerned about religious freedom, they should have asked Christie to sign same-sex marriage legislation that included religious protections. He reiterated that he believed it was unnecessary. “Religious exemption is just a codifation of the First Amendment,” said Gusciora. “While we're at it, why don't we recodify the Second Amendment, and reaffirm the right of gay people to carry guns?”
His biggest concern, says Gusciora, is the difference between religious and conscience protections. “The Catholic Church has the right to say 'We will not marry gays.' Fine. They have that protection. But on top of that, there has been this gray area – 'What about the Knights of Columbus Hall?' If the Knights try to offer my sister a wedding reception, they are now a place of public accommodations. It's like when the Supreme Court told the Heart of Atlanta Hotel that it can't discriminate against black people.”
“All this religious exemption stuff opens up that can of worms.”
A baker in Colorado is facing legal trouble for refusing to provide a cake for a gay couple. A bed and breakfast in Vermont that refuses accommodations to homosexual and unmarried heterosexual couples settled a lawsuit from a homosexual couple. Gusciora said he “would support that lawsuit” regarding the bed and breakfast, and said the baker in Colorado is exactly the kind of problem he's trying to avoid.
On Tuesday morning, Gusciora introduced another bill that would focus on helping same-sex couples transition from civil unions to getting marriage licenses. Each one carries a $28 fee, and a marriage license requires a 72-hour waiting period. He said his focus now “is converting civil unions to marriage.”
LifeSiteNews.com reached out to Weinberg's office for comment, but staff members said she was in meetings that left her unable to provide comment before press time. Lambda Legal and New Jersey Family Policy Council President Len Deo did not respond to multiple requests for comment