MaryAnn Spoto/The Star-Ledger 02/17/2012 5:31 PM
TRENTON — Delivering on his promise of swift action, Gov. Chris Christie this afternoon conditionally vetoed the gay marriage bill and suggested appointing an ombudsman to address complaints of same-sex couples and strengthen New Jersey’s civil union law.
Christie conditionally vetoed the bill six hours after it reached his desk, a day after the state Assembly gave the final legislative approval that he said he would not support.
"I have been just as adamant that same-sex couples in a civil union deserve the very same rights and benefits enjoyed by married couples — as well as the strict enforcement of those rights and benefits,’’ Christie said in a prepared statement.
"Discrimination should not be tolerated and any complaint alleging a violation of a citizen’s right should be investigated and, if appropriate, remedied."
His action was not the outright veto gay marriage proponents had expected, but still equally unwelcome.
"Thousands and thousands of New Jersey families are denied financial security, health security and fundamental equal rights every day because of a failed civil union experiment,’’ said Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald (D-Bergen). "And yet in spite of their second-class citizenship, the governor singlehandedly — through the stroke of his pen — seeks to codify discrimination against them.’’
Christie continued push his suggestion of the gay marriage issue to a referendum in November to allow New Jersey voters to decide. Republicans fell in line with his recommendation; not a single Republican present on Thursday voted for the gay marriage bill.
Two years after voting the bill down, the Senate on Monday passed the measure 24-16, with two Republicans crossing the aisle.
The veto ends legislative action for now. Gay rights activists say they will now work to secure enough votes for an override by the noon Jan. 14, 2014, deadline — the end of this legislative session. They’ll need nearly a dozen more votes in the Assembly and a handful in the Senate.
Democrats say they’re hopeful they’ll reach their goal in 1½ years because they won the Senate over and they convinced nearly a dozen Assembly members in recent weeks to get their victory on Thursday.
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