A NOTE ON MARRIAGE EQUALITY

By M.C. TRACEY

There is little momentum behind the New Jersey marriage equality bill, The New York Times website’s front page curiously suggested this evening. Somehow, however, they’re not seeing what I’m seeing. In reality, we have plenty of reasons to be (cautiously) optimistic. The NYT’s claim, I would therefore argue, is unsubstantiated. But unfortunately we’re now seeing it being reported throughout the state.

I’m not quite sure how this media narrative first materialized — but it’s being widely propagated. And it needs to be stopped in its tracks, lest public opinion be damned.

Let’s look at the facts:

Sen. Steve Sweeney, who was today elected senate president, made comments last week that were interpreted by one PolitickerNJ reporter to suggest that the senator wasn’t in favor of bringing the marriage equality bill to a vote. But in the original PolitickerNJ article, Sweeney was never directly quoted as saying this, and quickly issued a statement affirming that same-sex marriage is “an important social issue” and would be on the lame-duck legislative agenda.

Sen. Loretta Weinberg intervened, calling on Sweeney to reaffirm his commitment to the bill’s passage. After the initial dust had settled, though, it all seemed like much adieu about nothing. Again, from PolitickerNJ:

Update, 9:42pm — Citing a miscommunication with Sweeney, Weinberg offered this revised statement:

“I think there has been a miscommunication between Steve Sweeney and myself. I look forward to talking to him personally. It really is up to Senate President Dick Codey to make a decision about pushing this bill forward, and the Judiciary Committee Chair [state Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-Wood-Ridge) has informed me that he will post the bill.”

This, along with just about every other development related to the prospects of winning marriage equality in New Jersey, is excellent news. The result of today’s lobbying in Trenton was invigorating; we vastly outnumbered the opposition, who were out in full force. I was personally able to hand-deliver a letter from the TCNJ College Democrats in support of the bill to Sen. Sarlo. TV, radio, and internet ads are now going on the air. Public opinion polls show a plurality of support for same-sex marriage. Garden State Equality has spent an unbelievable amount of time and energy organizing the LGBT community and its allies for this very moment. Democratic legislators are aware that by reneging on their commitments, they will be upsetting a very large proportion of their progressive base.

Further, college students (including myself) have organized a large rally in Trenton, scheduled for Saturday, December 5.

Please come, and invite your friends and colleagues. Let me know if you’d like to become an admin on Facebook (so you can invite people). This rally will likely closely coincide with the time around when the bill will have hopefully been brought to a vote, so a visible presence at the State House is vitally important! The opposition is sure to be out in full-force again. By outnumbering them, we are achieving a valuable psychological victory. And remember, changing trends in public sentiment are often much more consequential than the timing of arcane procedural votes. Legislators, especially state legislators, are very sensitive to the demands of their constituents.

These are the facts, despite the alleged doom-and-gloom reported by certain media outlets. Things, I can say with confidence, are looking up. No doubt, we have to keep vigorously applying pressure to our legislators, many of whom are endlessly frustrating with their ambiguously tenuous statements of support — if only there were more Loretta Weinbergs. But think of how far we’ve come, and how close to achieving our goal we now are.

Let’s kick it into high gear.

Crossposted at Blue Jersey.

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