US: New Jersey Democrats seek to override Governor’s veto of equal marriage bill

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Democrats in the New Jersey legislature have said they will attempt to override Governor Chris Christie’s equal marriage veto from last year, and have now agreed to put the question of marriage equality to voters in November, if they cannot override it.

Democratic leaders in the Senate and Assembly in New Jersey voiced plans for a renewed effort towards marriage equality, during a meeting on Thursday, according to Assemblyman Reed Gusciora.

Part of their strategy could be to put the question to voters in a referendum in November, with Governor Christie on the ballot, reports

Governor Christie has voiced his opposition to equal marriage, and has more than once said that he thinks the issue should go to referendum.

He vetoed an equal marriage bill which had passed, one year ago.

On Tuesday, he said: “On this issue, I am comfortable with the people of the state of New Jersey making the decision… If they want to put it on the ballot, put it on the ballot.”

The November vote is likely to have Democratic Senator Barbara Buono, who supports equal marriage, as well as a proposed increase to the state’s minimum wage, at the top of the ticket facing Governor Christie.

Assemblyman Gusciora said: “This could be a perfect storm to get out the Democratic base.”

In 2011, Governor Christie condemned a teacher who had been suspended for making homophobic remarks on Facebook

Senate President Stephen Sweeney, a Democrat who was in 2010 opposed to equal marriage, but now in support of it, said the issue should not go to voters, saying it is a civil rights issue, and does not belong on the ballot. He did concede the difficulty of overriding the Governor’s veto, and said he would keep his options open.

Troy Stevenson of Garden State Equality, a gay rights group, said: “We still believe override is the immediate goal.”

If successful  the override would be the first of its kind by the Democratic led legislature. It would require a two-thirds majority in both the Senate and Assembly, meaning some Republicans would also need to go against the Governor’s decision.

Advocates of equal marriage have admitted that, if the vote were to come next week, the override would probably fail, but cited the expected June ruling from the US Supreme Court on the Defense of Marriage Act, which could bring new momentum to their cause.

The Supreme Court is due on 26 March to take up the case of whether to overturn Proposition 8, which in 2008 added a clause to the Californian constitution stating that marriage could only be recognised by the state if it were between a man and a woman, causing widespread controversy.

WashingtonMaine and Maryland, all legalised marriage equality at November 2012 votes.