Report: Support For Gay Marriage Collapses In New Jersey Legislature

November 30, 2009 8:11 a.m.

Same sex marriage advocates are seeing the end of the line for their cause in an unlikely place: New Jersey. Marriage equality was once expected to be all but inevitable in the Garden state, but as Newark Star-Ledger political columnist Tim Moran reports today, all that changed with the election of Gov.-elect Chris Christie (R).

Christie promised on the campaign trail to veto the same-sex marriage law that Moran reports many expected the state legislature to pass this year. Christie’s defeat of Gov. Jon Corzine (D), coupled with a stepped up opposition campaign by the Catholic Church, has led one-time supporters of marriage equality in New Jersey to change their tune.From Moran’s column:

So what changed in the last month? Why did supporters get so nervous?

For one, Corzine’s big loss has Democrats rattled. Republican Chris Christie united his party, and did well in Democratic strongholds like Middlesex County. He didn’t emphasize the gay marriage issue, but when asked, he promised a veto.

Democrats were rattled again when voters in Maine rejected gay marriage in a referendum, the 31st state to do so.

Perhaps most important, the Roman Catholic Church in New Jersey threw its muscle into the fight. Bishops and priests spoke against it from the pulpit, and more than 150,000 parishioners signed petitions in opposition.

Several legislators said they were impressed by that show of strength, given that Catholics make up more than 40 percent of the state’s population.

It’s not that that state legislators are opposed to same-sex marriage, Moran writes — it’s that recent electoral developments in New Jersey have scared them off. From the column:

What we have on our hands today in Trenton is a bunch of scared herd animals. And it’s not a pretty thing to watch.

Only 2 percent of voters said this is the most important issue to them. And these skittish Democrats are almost all in gerrymandered districts that were drawn to ensure they win by large margins.

Ask senators privately what would happen if they all voted their consciences, and you get the same answer over and over: It would pass with votes to spare.

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