Christie vetoes NJ marriage bill

AP

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a marriage equality bill on Feb. 17 and renewed his push for a referendum on the issue.

The New Jersey Senate passed the bill on Feb. 13 and the Assembly passed the measure on Feb. 16.

The governor had promised “very swift action” in vetoing the bill when it reached his desk.

“I am adhering to what I’ve said since this bill was first introduced – an issue of this magnitude and importance, which requires a constitutional amendment, should be left to the people of New Jersey to decide,” Christie said in a statement. “I continue to encourage the Legislature to trust the people of New Jersey and seek their input by allowing our citizens to vote on a question that represents a profoundly significant societal change. This is the only path to amend our State Constitution and the best way to resolve the issue of same-sex marriage in our state.

“I have been just as adamant that same-sex couples in a civil union deserve the very same rights and benefits enjoyed by married couples — as well as the strict enforcement of those rights and benefits,” the statement continued. “Discrimination should not be tolerated and any complaint alleging a violation of a citizen’s right should be investigated and, if appropriate, remedied. To that end, I include in my conditional veto the creation of a strong Ombudsman for Civil Unions to carry on New Jersey’s strong tradition of tolerance and fairness.”

Supporters of the bill called Christie’s decision unfortunate, unfair and politically calculated.

“He had a chance to do the right thing, and failed miserably,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney.

Lambda Legal deputy director Hayley Gorenberg said, “We are disappointed that Gov. Christie did not do what is right for New Jersey families, but we are not discouraged. We’ll continue to make our case for equality with our plaintiffs in court.”

Steven Goldstein, chairman of Garden State Equality, said Christie’s national political ambitions guided his action.

“He won’t veto the bill because he’s anti-gay,” Goldstein said in an eloquent statement issued before the veto. “He’ll veto the bill because the 2016 South Carolina presidential primary electorate is anti-gay.”

Goldstein said Christie will lose on the issue. “We will win, so help me God,” he said.

Lawmakers have until the end of the legislative session in January 2014 to override the veto with a two-thirds majority in both chambers.

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