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Senate Committee Passes Bill to Protect Marriage Equality in New Jersey

Sweeney, Weinberg, Gopal Legislation Would Codify Rights of Same-Sex Couples
TRENTON – A Senate committee today approved legislation that would help preserve the rights of same-sex couples and LGBTQ families in New Jersey by putting into state statute protections for marriage equality established by court decisions.
Sponsored by Senate President Steve Sweeney, Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and Senator Vin Gopal, the bill, S-3416, would codify into New Jersey law the right of same-sex couples to marry.
“This is about acting to ensure equal treatment and civil rights for all New Jerseyans, including same-sex couples,” said Senator Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland). “Marriage equality respects the rights of loving couples who deserve to be treated equally. The courts have ruled that same-sex marriages are a fundamental right, but we want to put it into statute to protect against any backtracking by the U. S. Supreme Court. ”
A state statute would bring New Jersey law in line with the 2013 State Supreme Court decision in Garden State Equality v. Dow as well as the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Obergefell et al. v. Hodges, which held that same-sex marriage is a fundamental right and that all states are required to allow same-sex couples to marry.
 “Devoted same-sex couples all across New Jersey are raising families as contributing members of their communities,” said Senator Weinberg (D-Bergen). “We fought to correct the injustice that denied these rights for too many loving couples for far too long. We don’t want to see those rights lost to an arch-conservative agenda of recent Supreme Court appointees.”
“Basic equal rights should not be denied to any class of citizen, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation,” said Senator Gopal (D-Monmouth). “The law must protect all civil rights and continue to honor the union between two people who love each other. We need to make these rights more secure by writing them into law.”
The head of Garden State Equality, a leading advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights, expressed his organization’s support for the legislative action.
“With a conservative leaning Supreme Court we cannot afford to sit by in hopes the Justices will leave Obergefell v. Hodges intact,” said Christian Fuscarino, Executive Director, Garden State Equality. “Our Legislature must act now to preserve this sacred right. On behalf of Garden State Equality, I would like to thank Senate President Sweeney for prioritizing this bill and HIV decriminalization during lame duck. We thank the committee for voting to codify marriage equality into law and ensure New Jersey not only continues to lead the nation on issues of equality, but safeguards them for decades to come.”
The bill was approved by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee with a vote of  11-1.