This afternoon, Senator Ray Lesniak and I requested that Senate President Richard J. Codey hold Senate Bill 1967. We also requested that Speaker Joseph Roberts schedule a meeting for the Assembly Judiciary Committee on A2978, popularly known as the Freedom of Religion and Equality in Civil Marriage Act.
In light of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s historic passage of S1967, Senator Lesniak and I believe that the public needs another opportunity to engage legislators on this issue. Moreover, the Senate committee has substantially amended its version to include sweeping, additional protections for religious institutions. We believe that members of the public need to be afforded an additional opportunity to debate this new provision as well.
Tuesday’s Senate hearing was extraordinary. Hundreds of citizens lined up outside the committee chambers to offer testimony on behalf of, and in opposition to, the proposed legislation. Under the leadership of Chairman Sarlo, who conducted one of the most thoughtful and fair-minded hearings in which either of us has ever participated, the committee spent seven hours hearing from scores of New Jerseyans. We had to turn away another 150 witnesses for want of time. In addition to the committee hearing, thousands of citizens, and dozens of religious and secular organizations, have engaged our members in a thoughtful and productive dialogue on marriage equality.
Accordingly, as sponsors of S1967, we asked Senator Codey to postpone full Senate consideration of the Marriage Equality Act until the Assembly Speaker has an opportunity to review scheduling the Assembly Judiciary Committee for a hearing.
We thank Senator Codey for his leadership. Marriage equality is a difficult and challenging question for members from both sides of the aisle. Throughout this debate, he has been balanced and evenhanded in his treatment of all Senators. For this, he has our deepest gratitude.