Legal same-sex marriages are happening in New Jersey today after the state Supreme Court ruled unanimously against a stay on the marriages pending an appeal. After that decision, Gov. Chris Christie announced today that he would withdraw his appeal to the decision, making same-sex marriage officially legal in the Garden State.
Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-6) told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that he was pleased with Christie’s decision to pull the appeal, but also said he believes lawmakers would be able to override the governor’s previous veto of legislation that would legalize same-sex marriage.
“I’m very thankful and very appreciative for the governor’s action to pull that decision,” said Greenwald. “When we passed this legislation in the House, we thought this was inevitable and I think that it sends a really clear signal that equal rights will exist for all residents and it’s what we’ve advocated for obviously for a number of years. This is time that has come and it’s certainly very appropriate.”
Days prior to the Christie administration’s decision to pull the appeal, the group behind the marriage equality movement — Garden Sate Equality — had planned to work for an override on the governor’s veto within the Senate. Greenwald believes that the group will be able to get the necessary votes required to override the veto and that the governor’s actions will free up some of the members on the Republican side.
When the same-sex marriage issue went through the Democratic caucus, it had received a majority of the votes. An override would require six more votes, according to Greenwald, which he believes is achievable.
As to why the governor decided to pull his appeal of same-sex marriage, Greenwald believes that opinions on the issue have progressed and people have gotten more comfortable with same-sex marriage, which has helped speed up the process and make it more acceptable.
“I think when you look at how far we have come, from where we were in 2009 when then Speaker Roberts actually started talking about civil unions, the progression of this issue, the fact that the more we’ve talked about it I think the more people have gotten a comfort level with areas that maybe they didn’t really understand before,” Greenwald said.
Greenwald said most people know individuals who are gay or lesbian and that it’s become accepted. He also said that marriage equality advocates have done an excellent job of sharing all of the information with the public.
Moving toward election day, Greenwald feels confident that Democrats will remain in control of the Assembly. He said Christie’s popularity isn’t translating into support for Republican candidates in legislative districts.
If the Democrats remain in control of the Assembly, Speaker Sheila Oliver may no longer serve in that role. Greenwald said he doesn’t know if Oliver will be running again for the position, but that a majority of members of the Democratic caucus are leaning toward a team of Assemblyman Vincent Prieto and Greenwald as majority leaders.
“I hope and know that Speaker Oliver will play a significant role in our caucus on issues she is passionate about just like former Speaker Albio Sires did in his transition from speaker,” Greenwald said.