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Protesters at New Jersey Statehouse (AP/Photo by Mel Evans)

Vote postponed

Marriage | Traditional marriage advocates declare the New Jersey Senate's decision a victory

In what traditional marriage advocates are calling a "tremendous blow" to same-sex marriage, the New Jersey state Senate indefinitely postponed a vote on same-sex marriage legislation, which was originally slated for Thursday.

Gay marriage proponents are trying to push the legislation through before January 19, the date when current Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine leaves office and Republican Chris Christie takes his place. Corzine supports same-sex marriage but Christie has said he would veto a gay marriage bill.

The Senate's Judiciary Committee narrowly passed the bill by a 7-6 vote on Monday, and debate on the legislation was scheduled for Thursday. But once the bill's sponsors Sens. Loretta Weinberg and Raymond J. Lesniak counted the votes, they withdrew the bill from the agenda. Instead, they are going to push the legislation in the state's General Assembly, where support is reported to be stronger.

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The New Jersey decision comes soon after the New York state Senate voted against same-sex marriage 38-24-a larger margin than the bill's proponents expected (See "Down to defeat," Dec. 2, 2009). This halt in momentum left same-sex marriage advocates reluctant to risk the public embarrassment of another failed vote in New Jersey.

Despite the political maneuvers, traditional marriage advocates are hailing the switch as a victory. The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) released an email to supporters calling it a "tremendous victory" that the vote was postponed. NOM will have spent over $600,000 on radio and television ads and robo-calls in the New Jersey campaign.

Len Deo, president of the New Jersey Family Policy Council (NJFPC) and an opponent of same-sex marriage, said he believes that constituents' calls helped strike that "tremendous blow" to the hopes of gay marriage advocates. He calculates that the traditional marriage coalition-a network that includes the NJFPC and its legislative action arm (New Jersey Family First), New Jersey Catholic Conference, NOM, and others-mobilized about 1,000 people across the state. He said that many of the legislators' offices reported that the ratio of calls received were 4-to-1 against the bill.

Deo has earlier noted that New Jersey's same-sex civil union law is not promoting "unequal treatment" as same-sex marriage advocates claim. Of the 4,170 same-sex couples who have entered into civil unions since February 2007, only eight have filed formal complaints with the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights.

The vote in the Assembly will also be close, Deo contended-and the lobbying on the traditional marriage side will continue. If the legislation passes, New Jersey will become the sixth state to allow same-sex marriages.

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