New Jersey approval of gay-marriage bill seen as uphill fight

The debate in New Jersey is the first legislative fight over gay marriage in 2010 following a year in which both gay-rights groups and opponents saw victories. The state Senate is set to vote on the bill Thursday.

Mel Evans/AP
Rev. Martin P. Lombardo, of Princeton, N.J., shouts against gay marriage as he holds a Bible outside the New Jersey Statehouse in Trenton Thursday. The state Senate is scheduled to vote on legalizing gay marriage Thursday. If it passes, the Assembly will vote Monday.

The nationwide battle over same-sex marriage shifts to Trenton, N.J., on Thursday. Activists on both sides of the issue have descended on the New Jersey State House, where senators are set to vote on a highly anticipated gay-marriage bill.

Even though Democrats control the state's Senate, gay-rights advocates face an uphill battle to make New Jersey the sixth state allowing same-sex marriage, according to early reports. Most expect a heated debate to precede the vote during the session that begins at 2 p.m., Eastern time. Live audio is available here.

Gay-rights groups have long been pressing Garden State lawmakers to take up the issue, but the impending Jan. 19 departure of Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine has added urgency to their cause. Governor Corzine says he’ll sign a gay-marriage bill, while his replacement, Republican Chris Christie, opposes same-sex marriage.

The New Jersey General Assembly would vote on the bill next Monday if it passes the Senate.

The debate in New Jersey is the first legislative fight over same-sex marriage in 2010 following a historic year in which both gay-rights groups and advocates of traditional marriage saw victories. Iowa and Vermont legalized marriage for gay and lesbian couples, while voters in Maine rejected a gay-marriage law. And in a landmark decision now being disputed in federal court, the California Supreme Court upheld a voter-approved initiative limiting marriage to heterosexual couples.

Moreover, while New York lawmakers rejected gay marriage last month, same-sex couples legally wed for the first time in New Hampshire on Jan. 1. The District of Columbia has also approved gay marriage.

New Jersey has become an especially contested battleground since it's one of the few states where lawmakers are still considering the issue. Voters in 31 states have rejected same-sex marriage at the polls.

According to The Star Ledger in Newark, N.J., both supporters and opponents of the bill lined up early for a seat in the Senate chamber, and thousands are expected on the State House lawn.


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