New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie declined to specify Thursday if he would veto proposed legislation that would legalize same-sex marriage in the Garden State.
Advocacy groups on both sides of the issue have hotly contested the legislation, which was announced on Monday by a coalition of state Democratic leaders.
With a Democratic majority in the Senate and Assembly, Democrats and gay rights activists are optimistic the bill will make it to Christie’s desk. What happens when it gets there, however, is the source of much consternation for the bill’s supporters, as the governor has previously expressed his opposition to same-sex marriage.
Christie abstained from committing to an answer when prompted by reporters on Thursday in Camden, N.J.
“They have a right to set their agenda, I’ll set mine, we’ll see who gets there first,” Christie said. “When forced to make a decision, if forced to make a decision on it, I’ll make a decision.”
Senate President Steve Sweeney remained optimistic that Christie may change his mind and allow same-sex marriage in the state – in fact, Sweeney himself abstained from a failed vote two years ago and has since regretted the decision.
“It’s gonna be a fight. We expect it to be a fight,’’ Sweeney said at a Monday press conference introducing the bill. “The governor’s a decent person and I think we can work on educating him to the fact of what it means.”
Same-sex marriage supporters in the state are hoping Christie follows the lead of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who celebrated a bill that redefined traditional marriage to include couples of the same gender in the state last summer.
“This state, when it’s at its finest, is a beacon of social justice,” Cuomo announced with the passage of the bill. “The other states look to New York for the progressive direction.”
The New Jersey bill has a number of detractors, including the National Organization for Marriage, the New Jersey Family Policy Council and the Knights of Columbus.
NJFPC released a statement this week calling for widespread opposition to the measure, which the group fears will tear the moral fabric of the state.
“If the state of New Jersey accepts the argument that people in homosexual relationships are entitled to marriage benefits based on the argument of ‘equal treatment under the law,’ what is to stop them from giving those same benefits to self-described long-term committed polygamists, incestuous couples or even adult/child couples who ‘pay taxes and participate in the community?’” the group posed.
Christie is unlikely to make a decision on the bill until it is placed in front of him, experts say – in part because picking a side may have implications as the governor gains a greater national profile.