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Same-sex Marriage Debate Continues In New Jersey

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By Cleve Bryan

TRENTON, NJ (CBS) – New Jersey Democrats trying to keep the ball rolling for same-sex marriage are pushing the issue on two fronts: the NJ Supreme Court and the Statehouse.

They are making a new effort to override Governor Christie’s 2012 veto of legalizing same-sex marriage by trying to persuade lawmakers previously reluctant to give support.

Senate Democrats are also calling on the NJ Supreme Court to skip the appeals process and take up the same-sex marriage immediately.

“Let the Supreme Court take it right now, we have a lower court decision giving it a date. People have waited a long time,” says Senate President Stephen Sweeney.

On Friday, a Mercer County Superior Court judge ruled that New Jersey’s civil unions violate the state constitution by stopping some same-sex couples from receiving all federal benefits. The judge ordered that same-sex marriages begin October 21.

Democrats offered several reasons why they want the NJ Supreme Court to consider the issue sooner than later:

- Legal experts see the current line-up of justices as favorable for same sex marriage decisions

- Going through the appellate court system will take several months or longer while likely ending in the Supreme Court anyway

- If the federal Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act of 2013 becomes law, it could negate the Mercer County decision that New Jersey is in non-compliance with federal law

“By October 21st people should know yes or no on same sex marriage,” says Sweeney.

On the other side of the debate, John Tomicki, the president of the New Jersey Coalition to Preserve and Protect Marriage, says he is fine with the Supreme Court taking up same-sex marriage if it will consider social arguments for the merits of keeping marriage only between a man and a woman.

“To now characterize New Jersey as now in the dark ages or behind the times challenges 31 other states that have said marriage should be a union between one man and one woman,” says Tomicki.

As for overriding Governor Christie’s veto of legalizing same-sex marriage, Sweeney wouldn’t divulge which senators he is trying to persuade to join him.

He said if he can get enough votes for an override, he will act immediately, indicating lawmakers who would need to change their minds haven’t.

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