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Senator Weinberg Floor Remarks On Marriage Equality Act

TRENTON – Senator Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, and a sponsor of the “Freedom of Religion and Equality in Civil Marriage Act,” delivered the following floor remarks today before the vote on her bill. The bill was defeated by a vote of 14-20:

“For almost 40 years, I was privileged to share a life with my husband.

“I never had to explain or justify our relationship to anyone.

“It was our relationship built on trust, love, compassion, humor and a lot of understanding!

“My partner happened to be a man, so our relationship was legally entitled to be called a marriage.

“But men and women don’t have a monopoly on loving relationships.

“Men and women don’t have exclusive rights to relationships built on trust, love compassion and everything else that bonds two people together.

“We all know same-sex couples that enjoy the same love and trust and compassion that is shared between a man and a woman, between a husband and a wife.

“Who are any of us that we have some special knowledge that lets us deny marriage as inappropriate to loving and committed same-sex adults.

“Same sex couples are entitled to the same legal protections — the same societal acceptance and the same ability to honor and celebrate their love as everyone else.

“For those who somehow fear the undoing of society by allowing same sex-marriage – who are you kidding?

“A vote against same sex marriage is not going to make the issue go away.

“A vote against same sex marriage is not going to end the love and commitment shared by same sex couples.

“These commitments exist… and they will continue to exist regardless of what happens today and regardless of whatever fears and prejudices exist in the world.

“In that sense, a vote today to deny equality of the law to same sex marriage is no different than any other of the controversial but ultimately correct civil rights votes in our history.

“I have traveled all over the state and can tell you from my own experience, the average New Jerseyan doesn’t care about anyone else’s marriage.

“They have their own problems to worry about.

“The people of this State have a proud history of respect for the private lives of their neighbors.

“The people I’ve talked to and met on various campaign trails…you know what they’re worried about?

“Whether they’re going to have a job next month.

“Or how they are going to make tuition payments.

“The health of their family and the cost of taxes.

“I think the average New Jerseyan is more worked up about the failure of the Giants to make the playoffs, then whether same sex couples can get married.

“Political calculations are the unspoken but always present issue lurking at the edge of every major decision we make here.

“I know people are concerned about primaries from political fallout.

“Not a single legislator in New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut or California who voted for civil marriage since 2004 ever lost their bid for re-election.

“Not one.

“There are a few times in this body, that we are truly called upon to act on our conscience.

“Today is one of those days.

“This is not just another roll call vote.

“This vote goes to the heart of who we are as a body, a State and ultimately as individuals.

“Today, we have the ability to recognize the love and commitment that is shared by same sex couples.

“Unfortunately, we read so much in the news about broken families and broken homes.

“Yet, we deny people who love each other the right to officially share their lives as married couples.

“It doesn’t make sense.

“To my colleagues who are wavering…. do what is in your heart and in your conscience.

“Vote yes.

“Those of you who are pulled by religious principles must understand that this bill will not compel any religion or clergy member to do ANYTHING that they wish not to do, and thanks to Senator Baroni’s amendments this has been completely clarified.

“But we should also acknowledge that there are large groups of clergy (including the Rabbi of my own synagogue) who want the ability to legalize such marriages within their own congregations.

“Before I close, let me just single out one person and one entity.

“This has been a long struggle and I suspect it’s a struggle that is going to have to continue.

“We are at this point because of the efforts of one organization Garden State Equality and its leader Steve Goldstein.

“The thousands of people who have come out to show their support in Trenton and across this State have been a needed face on this issue.

“The mothers, the fathers, grandparents and indeed the children themselves who live in such families.

“Whether gay, straight, in a partnership or simply aspiring to one… the members of Garden State Equality and all of these people in their own dignified way have reminded us all why this is so important.

“To them, I thank them for helping us get this far and I make them this promise, their day will come – whether it is today, their day will come, that I know!

“I am not a lawyer but let me close with a quote from the dissenting opinion in the Supreme’s Court’s shameful ‘separate but equal’ decision in Plessy v Ferguson.

“‘In view of the Constitution, in the eye of the law there is in this country no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens. There is no caste here… In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law.’

“And here’s another quote— this one from Henry David Thoreau in ‘Walden’ ‘It is never too late to give up your prejudices.’”

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