New Jersey Senate rejects gay marriage bill

A bill that would have legalized same-sex marriage in New Jersey was defeated in the state Senate Thursday by a vote 14-20. Twenty-one votes were needed for passage.

Backers of the bill had hoped to get it approved and signed into law before Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine leaves office on January 19. Gov. Corzine, who supported the bill, said he was disappointed.

"Most assuredly, this is an issue of civil rights and civil liberties, the foundation of our state and federal constitutions," Corzine said. "Denying any group of people a fundamental human right because of who they are, or whom they love, is wrong, plain and simple."

Votes did not follow party lines. Democrats control the Senate 23-17, but six Democrats voted against the measure while one Republican, Bill Baroni of Mercer County, voted in favor.

Polls indicate the public is deeply divided on the issue. Steven Goldstein, chairman of Garden State Equality, said Democrats overwhelmingly support same-sex marriage, and he chastised Sweeney, the incoming Senate president, for being out of step with his party's base. He said senators who did not vote yes or no "didn't have any guts."

Sweeney said he would have voted in favor of the bill had it been close to passage. Instead, he did not vote.

The final tally - with 20 senators opposing the measure, 14 supporting it and three abstentions - reflects a dramatic shift in the state's political landscape since Gov. Jon Corzine lost his bid for re-election to Republican Chris Christie in November.

Photo: Steve Rhodes

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