In the wake of last Monday's historic day in New Jersey with same sex marriages beginning to take place in the state, one might be left wondering what the next step or chapter might be.
The most talked about and most likely battle ahead will be one that has been taking place for nearly two years since Governor Chris Christie issued a veto to the bill that would have legalized same sex marriage that was passed by the Democratic-led State Legislature. Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-3) and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-34) have been working among their respective caucuses and general bodies to get the fifteen total votes needed to override Christie's veto. However, securing the extra three votes in the state Senate and twelve votes in the Assembly has not been easy. There is about two more months left before the opportunity to pull off the override will expire.
With the U.S. Supreme Court's dual ruling on same sex marriage in June, the current public opinion polls, and the beginning of same sex marriages under the ruling of a superior court last month; it would seem that there is enough reason and precedence to sway those needed votes who were once "no" votes to "yes" votes. There has been small inklings of hope as one assemblyman who was a "no" vote previously has committed to changing his vote if an override vote took place. Also, a few others have behind closed doors hinted at reversing their initial votes.
As Oliver would state leading up to last Monday,
The votes are beginning to be counted. By Monday (October 21st), you will see marriages being performed in New Jersey. That’s going to influence those sitting on the fence.
State Senator Raymond Lesniak (D-20) would add,
It’s important to get the legislative change on the books. This court was unanimous in its decision that there is not a likelihood the appeal will succeed. On the other hand, courts ultimately do change and Supreme Courts do reverse themselves.
Lesniak along with U.S. Senator-elect Cory Booker were among those hosting same sex marriage ceremonies in the early hours of Monday, October 21st.
Some like Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-23) do not seem as optimistic as Democrats in the State Legislature of successfully getting an override vote at this time.
As Bramnick would exclaim,
Whether or not they post it for a vote, I doubt the Supreme Court will override. From a legal standpoint, not a political one, this issue looks moot. There is not much left to discuss as to whether this is going to be legal in New Jersey.
While state Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-37) would utter,
For the people that will participate in gay marriage in the future my question is what does it mean if we don't do the override. Obviously right now with the governor having seen the light and withdrawing the appeal, the law in New Jersey grants the recognition of same sex marriage. My question is what is the future legal ramification for us to do or not do an override.
While either forcing an override vote or simply doing nothing are the only options really being discussed, there is a third one that could be on the table. That is issuing a new, clean bill. The State Legislature could take a new vote to legalize same sex marriage and tweak the previous bill's language to further strengthen aspects not covered by the superior court's ruling. Chief among those aspects is religious exemption for clergy and how best to handle civil unions. This new bill would just need majority support like the one that passed nearly two years and give those who voted "no" last time a chance to switch their support in this vote. With this new bill, if Christie were to not sign it into law or veto it and there was a 45 days that followed; it would pass into law.
Over the next couple months, what to do over the failed bill in early 2012 will be discussed as Democratic leaders will look to get their override vote and further cement same sex marriage as law in New Jersey. Thus, it could be said that even with same sex marriage under way; this issue is likely to continue to be contested and hotly debated by both sides.