TRENTON – State Senator Raymond J. Lesniak, D-Union, one of the prime sponsors of S-1, legislation which would allow same-sex couples to be married in the Garden State, issued the following floor remarks today in support of the bill:
“Throughout history New Jersey has sometimes been a leader in the evolution of civil rights in the United States of America and sometimes we’ve been a follower.
“In 1846, New Jersey was a leader, abolishing slavery seventeen years before the Emancipation Proclamation.
“In 1881, New Jersey was again a leader, declaring that local school districts and boards of education could not establish separate public schools based on race, color or creed, 66 years before Brown v Board of Education.
“In 1920, New Jersey was a follower, being the 29th state to ratify the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote, six years after New Jersey voters rejected a women’s right to vote by a 58 to 42 percent margin.
“Blacks and whites were never barred from being married in New Jersey, while it took a 1967 United States Supreme Court decision in Loving v Virginia, to grant that right to Americans in every state in the nation.
“Continuing its leadership in the evolution of civil rights, New Jersey amended its Law Against Discrimination in 1991 to include sexual orientation, a right that still does not exist in 29 other states and in federal law.
“Today, we have an opportunity to be again on the right side of history and take our rightful place in being a leader among the fifty states. We can join New York, Vermont, Washington, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Iowa by approving Marriage Equality.
“The sanctity of marriage has not been endangered by Marriage Equality in those seven states. In fact, it’s been enhanced by allowing more loving couples to get married.
“Senators, where do you want NEW JERSEY to be on the evolution of civil rights in the United States of America? Where do YOU want to be on the evolution of civil rights in the United States of America.
Are you going to soar like an eagle, or follow like a sheep?
“I choose to soar like an eagle.
“I want New Jersey to be a leader. I want to be a leader. I vote yes for Marriage Equality.”