TRENTON, NJ (AP / CBSNewYork) - A Republican lawmaker said Thursday he has submitted a proposal for a ballot question that would ask New Jersey voters to approve gay marriage in November.
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Meanwhile, Gov. Chris Christie met with a gay lawmaker with whom he exchanged barbs over putting the issue of same-sex nuptials to a popular vote.
Sen. Kip Bateman, sponsor of the ballot question resolution, said putting the question to voters would allow proponents and opponents of same-sex marriage to register an opinion at the ballot box. Christie, a Catholic who opposes gay marriage, also wants the issue put to referendum.
“This amendment is unique in that, unlike in the other states that have put the issue before voters, it would permit same-sex marriage rather than prohibit it,” Bateman said. “This is not a so-called ‘Defense of Marriage’ amendment.”
Thirty states have adopted constitutional amendments aimed at banning gay marriage, with all but one specifying that marriage is a union between man and woman.
New Jersey’s Legislature would have decide whether to put a gay-marriage question on the ballot.
Senate President Steven Sweeney has already said that won’t happen. Democrats want the issue decided by legislation, or failing that, through the courts. They say gay marriage is a civil right and not subject to popular vote.
Asked about Bateman’s proposal during a Statehouse news conference, Christie said he approved.
“I think we’ve seen the overwhelming majority of people in New Jersey think it should be decided by a vote,” Christie said. “I think it should be decided by a vote. But it appears that the Senate president and the Speaker don’t want it to be decided by a vote because they don’t trust the people to make this decision.”
While articulating his position calling for a referendum last week, Christie called Assemblyman Reed Gusciora “numb nuts” after the Democrat compared the governor to Southern segregationists. Christie had said the people who fought for civil rights in the 1950s and `60s would have been happy to have the matter settled by popular vote rather than die in the streets of the South.
He later said he realized that option was not available to people involved in the civil rights struggle.
Six states and Washington, D.C., allow gay marriage.
Democrats who control both houses of the Legislature have made gay marriage their No. 1 priority for this session. Christie has vowed to veto the bill if it reaches his desk. It’s unlikely Democrats could muster enough support from Republicans for an override.
Christie and Gusciora met for about 45 minutes on Thursday. Afterward, Gusciora, a Trenton Democrat, said the session was amicable.
“I think we both agreed to disagree but be respectful of each other’s views,” Gusciora said.
Gusciora, one of two openly gay members of the Assembly, also pressed his case for marriage equality legislation.
“I emphasized that I don’t think it’s right to put this on the ballot. It goes along with the reasoning of the (California) court of appeals that you pit one group of people against another, that you put people like myself up on the ballot for scrutiny, and I don’t think that is right,” Gusciora said.
A federal appeals court on Tuesday declared California’s ban on gay marriage unconstitutional, ruling it was a violation of the civil rights of gay and lesbian couples.
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