Is Gay Marriage a Political Winner in New Jersey?

Going into this year, New Jersey and Vermont seemed to me to be alone as states that might legalize gay marriage legislatively. New Jersey had ...
by | June 22, 2009

Going into this year, New Jersey and Vermont seemed to me to be alone as states that might legalize gay marriage legislatively. New Jersey had a governor and legislative leaders who supported the idea, making passage of a gay marriage law appear likely.

Vermont did legalize gay marriage. More surprisingly, Maine and New Hampshire did too. New Jersey, however, hasn't acted.

I presumed the reason was that lawmakers were skittish about bringing up the topic is an election year. New Jersey's gubernatorial race is this year and legislative seats are up too.

Maybe that is the explanation. But, you'd never know it from listening to New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, as the Philadelphia Inquirer reports:

Gov. Corzine has made "marriage equality" for gays and lesbians a prominent piece of his reelection campaign, taking another step in his conversion on the issue and encouraging gay-rights advocates who hope to see same-sex marriage approved in New Jersey this year.

In public speeches and private appearances, Corzine, who as recently as 2006 said he believed marriage should be between a man and a woman, has touted his support of same-sex marriage.

In raising the issue, he has tried to draw a bright-line divide with his Republican opponent, Christopher J. Christie, who has said he would veto a bill allowing gay and lesbian couples to wed.

In actively promoting gay marriage, Corzine's calculus could be that in New Jersey, a blue state, he simply needs to persuade standard Democratic constituencies to support him to win another term. Corzine's poll numbers are lousy in large part because of the economy, the state's financial problems and high property taxes. Focusing on social issues allows the governor to turn attention away from those topics and to court disenchanted Democrats.

Of course, it could also be that Corzine simply believes in gay marriage.

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com

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