New Jersey Senate president apologizes for not voting for gay marriage in 2010

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Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester) 2010 NJ Senator

Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester) 2010 NJ SenatorNew Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney apologized for his not voting for gay marriage and full equality in January 2010. Sweeney, a Democrat and the second most powerful leader in New Jersey politics after Republican Gov. Chris Christie, called his abstention “the biggest mistake of my legislative career.”

“We welcome Senate President Sweeney’s support with open arms,” said Steven Goldstein, chairman of Garden State Equality. “The world evolves, and our responsibility as advocates is not to hold grudges, but to pass laws.” GSE is New Jersey’s largest LGBT civil rights organization.

“Today we indeed have the votes to pass marriage equality in both houses of the New Jersey legislature,” said Goldstein in an email to GSE members, “but we do not have enough votes, to be sure, to override Governor Christie’s veto. It means New Jersey will have to win marriage equality through other means.”

 

Steven Goldstein said,

Steven Goldstein said, “We do not have enough votes, to be sure, to override Governor Christie’s veto. It means New Jersey will have to win marriage equality through other means.”

When the Senate voted on gay marriage back in January 2010, the New Jersey legislature was in post-election lame-duck session. Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine had just a few days left in his term. The Democrats still had full control of New Jersey politics from both the executive and legislative branches of government. But the newly elected and soon to take office Republican, Chris Christie, had turned marriage equality, a sure thing and a slam dunk, into a late-night TV joke in the Garden State. 

 

LGBT marriage equality advocates said that an abstention vote in the Senate on that January day was equal to a “no” vote and a slap in the face to the gay community. Twenty-one votes were needed for passage in the Senate to move the bill to the Assembly, where another treacherous vote awaited to pass the bill. Without Sweeney’s leadership it did not happen. Jon Corzine had no bargaining chips left after his stunning election loss to Christie to be of any help as a lame-duck governor. The looming figure of Chris Christie as the new governor put abject fear in all but the most ardent gay-rights supporters in the New Jersey legislature. What was previously thought to be an easy 21 to 24 “yes” votes just a few months before the election was whittled away by more than a half dozen Democratic abstentions at the final tally. 

Democratic Senate President Sweeney’s exact words were, “Seventeen months ago, I stood up here and made the biggest mistake of my legislative career. I made a decision based purely on political calculations not to vote in support of marriage equality. I failed in my responsibility as majority leader of this house of government to actually lead. I was wrong. To my fellow colleagues, to staff, and to those watching upstairs, let me tell you: never, ever again will I allow that to happen. The time for political calculations is over.”

After Sweeney’s announcement on the floor of the New Jersey Senate, Steven Goldstein of GSE asked the LGBT and marriage equality movement to “Stay tuned for an announcement very, very soon.

“We are ready for the next round of our monumental fight to win equality for all.”

Meanwhile, Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-15) introduced a marriage equality bill in the second week of June. He said the bill is not expected to move in the current legislature but he wanted to have a bill introduced while New York considers the issue across the Hudson. Gusciora is the only openly gay New Jersey legislator.

Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester) 2010 NJ SenatorNew Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney apologized for his not voting for gay marriage and full equality in January 2010. Sweeney, a Democrat and the second most powerful leader in New Jersey politics after Republican Gov. Chris Christie, called his abstention “the biggest mistake of my legislative career.”

“We welcome Senate President Sweeney’s support with open arms,” said Steven Goldstein, chairman of Garden State Equality. “The world evolves, and our responsibility as advocates is not to hold grudges, but to pass laws.” GSE is New Jersey’s largest LGBT civil rights organization.