While same-sex marriage has been legal in New Jersey since a September court order, a bill was introduced to have it officially written into law. However, Senate Democrats have now scrapped the bill under advisement of Lambda Legal, fearing the legislation might add religious restrictions.
The bill was to be considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee on December 16, before Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg abruptly dropped it.
“They don’t want any kind of religious exemption, so out of respect for that, I will [pull the bill],” said Weinberg. “There’s a disparate group of people and it’s hard to follow what they want, so I’m following [the advisement of]Lambda Legal.”
Weinberg added that while she would prefer to proceed with the bill, “doing nothing” seems to be the majority preference amongst advocates.
“We’re not in any kind of, quote, ‘crisis,’” said Weinberg. “We have a court decision that guarantees the right of marriage to gay couples in New Jersey.”
Had the bill been presented and passed, religious organizations would have been able to exclude and discriminate against same-sex couples. While the bill would not mandate that clergymen officiate same-sex weddings, those supporting the bill argued the First Amendment would protect them.
Jim White, chairman of the religious and civil rights committee for the Knights of Columbus (the world’s largest Catholic fraternal organization), said barring same-sex couples from marrying in their halls is not the primary issue. Rather, it’s granting gays the right to marry at all.
“We can’t abide by this,” said White. “Where that takes us, we don’t know.”