Coalition Launched to Bring Marriage Equality to New Jersey

Campaign hopes to bring successful bill by 2014

New Jersey United for Marriage, a broad-based campaign supporting marriage equality for all New Jersey residents, held its launch rally on Wednesday on the Asbury Park boardwalk. The coalition introduced its lead partners, including Garden State Equality; the American Civil Liberties Union of NJ; American Unity Fund; Freedom to Marry; Gill Action Fund; the Human Rights Campaign; and Lambda Legal.

“Today’s announcement is a game-changer. Over the past decade, Garden State Equality has moved public opinion from minority to majority support for marriage,” said Troy Stevenson, Executive Director of Garden State Equality. “With more than 60 percent of New Jerseyans supporting marriage equality, we are in the last leg of a marathon race and are inviting everyone to run the last mile with us.”

“The issue at hand is simple,” said Jeff Cook-McCormac, Senior Advisor to American Unity Fund. “We’re here because we believe that it’s not government’s proper role to interfere with someone’s happiness. Government must not limit our freedoms, including our freedom to marry the person we love.”

Modeled after successful efforts in New York, Rhode Island, Maryland and Maine, the campaign will broaden the existing coalition of supporters to engage new groups, including Main Street businesses, large corporate employers, industry organizations and Republicans.

“Today, we are proud to stand with our state and national partners to bring marriage equality over the finish line. The striking down of DOMA by the Supreme Court changed the landscape for marriage equality, and New Jersey is now the epicenter of the next big fight,” said Udi Ofer, Executive Director of the ACLU of New Jersey. “The inequality between New Jersey and our neighbors, like New York and Delaware, is now more pronounced than ever. With DOMA struck down, the term civil union is preventing New Jersey’s LGBT couples from being eligible for hundreds of federal benefits, such as Social Security, tax and medical benefits. New Jersey’s separate and unequal civil union system must end, and New Jersey’s LGBT couples must be treated with the same dignity and respect as all other couples.” 

The Marriage Equality and Religious Exemptions Act passed in the State Senate and Assembly in February 2012, but was vetoed shortly thereafter by Republican Gov. Chris Christie. NJ United for Marriage seeks an override of the veto by early January 2014.

“With federal protections now available thanks to the removal of DOMA’s ‘gay exception,’ Governor Christie’s veto is costing New Jersey families very real protections that only marriage provides. This new, broad-based campaign brings the best of the movement to the important task of ensuring that loving and committed New Jersey couples, who deserve to be treated just like all other Americans, no longer have to cross the river to get married and have their marriages respected,” added Richard Carlbom, director of state campaigns at Freedom to Marry.

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