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Gay marriage bill sent to NJ gov, who's vowed veto

Bill legalizing same-sex marriage in NJ sent to Gov. Christie, who has vowed to veto it By The Associated Press

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) ' A bill legalizing same-sex marriage in New Jersey was delivered Friday morning to Gov. Chris Christie, who has vowed to veto it.

The Assembly clerk's office sent the bill to Christie a day after the chamber approved it 42-33, Assembly spokesman Tom Hester said. The Senate passed the gay marriage proposal on Monday.

Christie, a Republican who opposes gay marriage, had vowed "very swift action" once the bill reached his desk.

On Friday, Steven Goldstein, chairman of the state's largest gay rights group, Garden State Equality, said Christie would veto the bill because of his national political ambitions.

"He won't veto the bill because he's anti-gay," Goldstein said in a statement. "He'll veto the bill because the 2016 South Carolina presidential primary electorate is anti-gay."

Goldstein, who said he has a cordial relationship with the governor, promised to continue to fight him vigorously on the issue on the issue. "And we will win, so help me God," he said.

Another gay marriage supporter, Washington state Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire, has also reached out to Christie, a practicing Catholic. Gregoire sent the governor a letter last month offering to talk about gay marriage because, in her words, "while I am a Governor, I am also a Catholic."

The Roman Catholic Church opposes same-sex marriage.

Gregoire signed a gay marriage measure into law in Washington on Monday. Her spokeswoman, Karina Shagren, said Christie hasn't responded.

Thirty states, including South Carolina, have adopted constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriages, most by defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

Six states and Washington, D.C., allow gay marriage. Washington state's new gay marriage law is set to go into effect in June.

Christie ' and most Republican lawmakers ' want the issue decided by public vote. One GOP lawmaker, Sen. Kip Bateman of Somerset, has proposed a ballot question asking voters to allow same-sex nuptials. However, Democrats who control the Legislature maintain that gay marriage is a civil right protected by the U.S. Constitution and isn't subject to popular vote.

Christie's office hasn't said when the governor plans to act.

The bill would need several Republican votes in each house to override the governor; Christie himself essentially guaranteed that that won't happen.

With that in mind, Democrats who identified same-sex marriage as their No. 1 priority for the two-year legislative session that began in January have adopted a more long-term view. They say there's no rush for an override vote, especially because the Legislature has been unsuccessful in every prior attempt to override Christie, most notably to reinstate a surcharge on millionaires.

Instead, they plan to bide their time in hopes that support for gay marriage ' 52 percent for gay marriage, 42 against it, in New Jersey, according to one recent voter poll ' will continue to grow.

"We do have two years," said Reed Gusciora, a Trenton Democrat who sponsored the bill in the Assembly and who is one of two openly gay state lawmakers. "We changed a lot of views in the last couple of weeks. Give us two years and we're going to change a heck of a lot more."

In case same-sex couples can't win gay marriage through legislation, they have engaged in a parallel fight in the courts. Seven gay couples and several of their children have sued, claiming that the state's civil union law doesn't work as intended.

Civil unions were designed to provide the benefits of marriage to gay couples without the title. They were adopted after the Supreme Court instructed the Legislature to provide marriage equality to same-sex couples.

The state's own review commission has since found problems with the law, however, and many same-sex couples have backed that up with testimony before the Legislature.

Gay rights advocates say civil unions haven't provided true equality. They complain that they set up a separate and inherently unequal classification for gays ' something social conservatives dispute.

A gay marriage bill was defeated in the Senate two years ago, just before Gov. Jon Corzine, a Democrat who supported the measure, left office. Advocates' hopes dimmed with the arrival of Christie, who spoke against gay marriage when asked about it during his campaign.

This time around, advocates have presented gay marriage as a civil rights issue. The bill includes an exemption for religious leaders, institutions and facilities, meaning no one would be required to perform, host or lease space for a gay marriage.


Associated Press correspondent Rachel La Corte in Olympia, Wash., contributed to this report.

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