New Jersey’s State Senate turned down a bill Thursday, Jan. 7 that would have allowed same-sex couples to wed, causing a tide of emotions within the College community.
“It’s a bitterly disappointing decision in human terms because of its cruelty, but also in legal terms because it denies a group of citizens their constitutional rights,” John Landreau, professor of Women’s and Gender Studies, said.
Others were personally affected.
“When New Jersey denies me the right to marry my partner of seventeen years, it also denies my child the right to have ‘married’ parents,” Juda Bennett, director of the Women’s and Gender Studies department, said. “We have all been born into a world of bias, but when I look at my beautiful child it is difficult for me to imagine how that bias can persist.”
The Freedom of Religion and Equality in Civil Marriage Act, or S1967, needed 21 votes to pass but received only 14. Twenty senators voted against the bill.
“Those democrats who voted ‘nay’ will be judged to have been on the wrong side of history,” said Brian Block, president of the College Democrats.
Block also said the College Democrats were even more embarrassed by those democrats who abstained, and Sen. Shirley Turner, an alumna of the College, “really let us down.”
Gina Lauterio, vice-chair of the College Republicans, also expressed feelings of disappointment.
According to Lauterio, she and several other members of the College Republicans had been active in advocating for the passage of the bill, including attending marches and rallies. Lauterio herself was present for the Senate’s decision.
“Being surrounded in the statehouse by so many who were praying for the bill to pass, and then breaking down when the decision was reached, was one of the saddest things that I’ve ever experienced,” she said.
Brian Hackett, treasurer of the College Republicans, felt differently.
“I believe the liberty of (LGBT) must be respected and the best way to do so is improving the current civil union law, which contains flaws. I also believe the supporters of the bill must, yet do not, show a mutual respect for those who cherish the sanctity of marriage,” he said. “Once the definition of marriage is changed, it is no longer marriage.”
Yet proponents at the College of same-sex marriage maintain optimism that marriage laws will change. S1967 is currently heading to court for review.
“We’re very optimistic and hopeful that the N.J. Supreme Court will do the right thing,” Michelle Stecker, faculty advisor for PRISM and assistant professor of Women’s and Gender Studies, said.
Senator Loretta Weinberg, former candidate for Lt. Gov., is one of the bill’s sponsors. Weinberg visited the College during the gubernatorial election season to promote Corzine’s candidacy. However, the auditorium was less than filled prompting some students to complain about the lack of attendance and overall political participation of the college community.
“If Corzine had won, he would have had more leverage,” Stecker said.
Governor-elect Chris Christie has stated multiple times his opposition to same-sex marriage.
“Christie is very unsupportive,” said Heather Lemley, PRISM treasurer.
Lemley also said people with civil unions are often denied access to their partners in hospitals and face other challenges, such as having difficulty getting the same insurance benefits as married couples.
“We fall in love with someone. We want to get married, not a civil union. No one even knows what civil unions mean,” Stecker said. “Marriage, everyone knows what it means.”
Both Stecker and Lemley said they believe marriage equality for LGBT to be inevitable.