N.J. Assembly Votes To Legalize Gay Marriage

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The New Jersey State Assembly followed the lead of the state Senate and voted to legalize same-sex marriage in the state on Thursday. Governor Chris Christie has vowed to veto the measure and put it up for referendum in November.


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Melissa Block. Lawmakers in New Jersey today passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, and their vote sets up a confrontation with Republican Governor Chris Christie. He's promised to veto the bill. The New Jersey Assembly approved the measure 42 to 33. Many Republicans voted against it. Joining us now to talk about the prospect for same-sex marriage in the Garden State is NPR's Joel Rose. He's in the capital, Trenton. And, Joel, we mentioned that the governor says he will veto this bill. Do supporters have the votes to override that?

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: Well, Melissa, it appears that they do not. The bill did pass, as you mentioned, 42 to 33, but that's well short of the two-thirds majority that they would need to override the governor's veto. And Governor Chris Christie has been pretty outspoken about this. He has promised a veto and a speedy one. He has a certain number of weeks to decide on whether he's going to veto the legislation, but it just does not seem that he's going to wait very long to do it.

BLOCK: Now, Governor Christie has said that this rightfully belongs before the voters of New Jersey. He wants to put it up for a vote in the fall. Is that likely to happen?

ROSE: Well, Democrats in New Jersey do not like the idea, and supporters of same-sex marriage here say it's a civil rights issue and that you can't decide people's civil rights at the voting booths. They want the legislators who have already voted here to have the final say. The polling that we've seen this week suggests that a referendum in the state to legalize same-sex marriage would actually pass narrowly. But the same poll also indicates that voters support the idea of a referendum, of putting the idea for a vote before the people in November.

So Governor Chris Christie has gotten some credit here for turning what could have been a political liability for him into something of a positive.

BLOCK: And, Joel, what happens next for supporters of the same-sex marriage bill if they can't override the governor's veto?

ROSE: Well, they technically have until 2014 to override this veto. And what same-sex marriage advocates have been saying throughout this process both when the Senate voted to approve the bill earlier this week and after the assembly voted today, they're saying they're going to have to work to get more votes to get up to that two-thirds majority and override the governor's expected veto. But I think we saw today from the voting that they still do have a lot of work cut out for them if they're going to get to that two-thirds number by 2014.

BLOCK: And, Joel, how would you describe the mood there in Trenton as this vote came down?

ROSE: Well, you know, supporters and opponents of this bill are very energized. I saw a lot of people on both camps were - had filled the assembly chamber to overflowing. They applauded raucously both for speeches in favor and, to an extent, against, although they were relatively few speeches against the measure. Most of them were for. But, you know, it's a very hotly contested issue. Every state that's debated it has seen protests outside the state house. We saw those again today in Trenton, opponents of legalizing same-sex marriage. So it's a polarizing issue, and it draws ardent supporters on both sides.

BLOCK: OK, Joel. Thanks very much.

ROSE: Thank you.

BLOCK: That's NPR's Joel Rose in Trenton, New Jersey. We were talking about the vote today by the New Jersey Assembly legalizing same-sex marriage, that bill now going before Republican Governor Chris Christie, who is expected to veto it.

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