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article imageOp-Ed: The Same Sex Marriage Debate in New Jersey

By Erin P. Capuano     May 23, 2013 in Politics
The Same Sex Marriage debate from the view of a native New Jersian who's just a little embarrassed by their lack of progression. What does the future hold for New Jersey and the gay marriage debate?
Did you ever think New Jersey would be so far behind in marriage equality? It’s what I’m asked almost daily by people I know, people I work with and people online. I’m a Jersey girl born and raised, now living in Connecticut. I love my Garden State and visit quite often to see my parents and family members. New Jersey has always been a welcoming place, somewhere that always felt like home. I’ve lived in Staten Island, NY and now Stamford, CT and during each of those periods my heart still loved my home, New Jersey.
After Hurricane Sandy I was devastated seeing the destruction it caused to so many of the places I used to belong, the boardwalks, the beaches, the homes all destroyed in a night. Memories forever lost to the waves. I don’t think one ever forgets their home or ever really moves away because there’s always something there to pull you back, always something that reminds you of where you grew up. New Jersey had always been a proud Blue state, we’d always relished in the fact that we progressed along with New York; it’s pretty classy company to be with when you vote in line with a grand state like New York. In the past few years however, my state has taken a turn for the worse and with the Governor change over to Republican Chris Christie from historically Democratic, we’ve seen so many typical Republican moves that are choking our state into irrelevance.
Since coming into office in 2010, Christie has worked hard to strip government workers of their benefits, dramatically cut educational funding for public schools and held back the state when it comes to progressive social issues like Marriage Equality. We had the displeasure of seeing such an act when he vetoed the vote from the Senate to pass Gay Marriage legislature with a sweeping majority vote. I certainly would expect no less from a former lobbyist who fought for GPU Energy for deregulation of New Jersey’s gas and electric industry, the Securities Industry Association to block inclusion of securities fraud under the state’s Consumer Fraud Act, Hackensack University Medical Center for state grants and the University of Phoenix, a for profit college for New Jersey’s higher education license.
Marriage Equality has growing support among voters in the United States a obvious difference from just a few years ago. According to a recent Gallup Poll support has been 50% or above in three separate readings in the last year, 53% say the law should recognize same-sex marriages. These polls show a drastic change from just 2011 when it showed 44%, 2012 showed 45% in favor. The country is shifting and now 12 states have passed marriage equality bills granting full marriage rights to same sex couples under state law. So what happens to New Jersey as it watches all the trains go by the station and not one stops at its station? Where can we go from here as we’ve taken so many steps back from such a progressive state? I don’t have the answers to these questions, hell if I did I’d probably be a millionaire or a politician although these days both go hand in hand don’t you think?
To see such states as Iowa, Massachusetts, Maryland, Delaware, and Minnesota pass marriage equality while New Jersey sits in the dark ages is a very sad thing to watch. I’m so happy for those states and so very happy for the LGBT community there, but so sad to see my home state still denying the rights of my friends, family and neighbors. I cannot even get married to my partner in my home state, because I do not have the same rights as others and that to me is a very sad state of affairs.
I think we can start with a regime change, and I say regime because Christie runs our state like a King on his thrown, a big bully who’s opinion is the only one that matters. The voters of New Jersey need to wake up and smell the turnpike, this man does not have your best interests at heart, we see this in your property taxes that have steadily gone up throughout the years he’s been in power, while simultaneously promising you he’ll lower them. That pension you worked so hard for, those sick days you acquired all those years of coming into work with a fever and not staying home, gone. But don’t worry he makes sure to pay his employees a nice salary with a raise and bonus every year. The rights of the people are not his first priority and you as the voter should be concerned with Civil Rights before anything else, if we continue to try to hold people to a second class citizen status it will be so easy for the government to take away the rights of others as well.
If Hurricane Sandy taught us anything as a state it is that if we work together, if we stick together anything is possible, we are all the same just people fighting to get by every day. We go to work every day, kiss the ones we love, and hope that our children are learning and are safe. What I think people tend to forget or maybe get somewhat confused about is that marriage, while it can be performed in a church, is not a religious right, marriage affords couples many tax rights and death rights that unmarried couples cannot receive. The government does not work to support your religious opinions, it works to support the rights of the total not the few and in our country that means allowing same sex couples the right to be married. Did you know that a same sex couple even with a civil union does not have the same rights as married heterosexuals? Did you know that one partner can have their home, their money taken from them by a family member of their partner simply because they are not recognized as married under the law? It is very important to make the distinction when discussing marriage equality that religion does not play a role in decision making, we are a country that has a separation of church and state.
New Jersey is lucky they still have a choice and they can make the right choice, Democrat Barbara Buono has taken up the task of running against Chris Christie this year and if given the opportunity will enact the marriage equality law that was vetoed by Christie. I am a huge fan of learning all you can about each candidate, reading up on what they stand for, what their background is and where they want to take your state in the future. I don’t think anyone should blindly vote, but I think one should vote for what’s right for the country or state as a whole not just what’s right for one person.
Coming from a Jersey girl, a hometown girl and a long time New Jersey supporter I’d love to see us regain our place as a proud blue state, where the rights of others matter and what we do for others is our number one priority. We’ve come a long way in this country with states taking control of their own fate while the federal government fails to act. We can take it upon ourselves to empower each other to fight for the civil rights of others and to leave our mark in history as it’s being made.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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