As some of you may know, I also post at BlueJersey, and one of the biggest issues facing the state legislature right now is one involving marriage equality. What I want to point out here is some background on what is going on in a state where this is a “hot issue”, but just as important is how the bluejersey community (and specifically my fellow front pagers over there) have really stepped up and given a great example of how the netroots CAN make a difference.
Since there are some who have written very good posts on this, I will have this be chock full of linky-goodness, and will also have links to some advertisements that were put together by the bluejersey crew this past week which have just been released and have already gotten some great press.
The New Jersey legislature has been debating what to do in the area of marriage equality. I will use that term because it truly is the best way to describe the “debate” that is going on with respect to civil unions vs. marriage. I’ll quote my wife, who in addition to being a wonderfully bright person, is also a sharp legal mind who “doesn’t understand how anything can be legislated which is so blatantly discriminatory on its face”.
And that is where I, and I would bet many of you stand as well. Anyway, back in November, the New Jersey state Supreme Court ruled that the NJ legislature had 180 days to come up with legislation which would give gay couples the same rights and protections as straight couples. Or more accurately, not discriminate.
The state Supreme Court last month gave the Legislature 180 days to give gay couples equal protection. However, the court said it was up to lawmakers whether to call it marriage or not.
Gov. Corzine has said he prefers the term "civil unions." And in interviews last week, Senate President Richard J. Codey and Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts said a majority in their houses were also in support of civil unions, and that they planned to approve such a measure in December or January.
This was also reported today on the Blog for America site by Rosi Efthim, who added the following:
Marriage Equality is a huge issue in New Jersey right now. In October, the state Supreme Court gave the legislature six months to change marriage laws to include same-sex couples or come up with another format - civil unions - that provide all the same protections and benefits of marriage. According to Garden State Equality and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) there are 1,138 of those.
So far, so good, right? Well, not so fast. Because now, as reported by Steven Goldstein, Garden State Equality Chair:
As the press has reported and as many of us have learned in lobbying Trenton, the legislature will act well before the 180-day deadline that the New Jersey Supreme Court gave the legislature to choose between marriage equality versus discriminatory civil unions. 180 days would have given us until late April 2007.
In fact, the legislature is rushing to pass a bill in December 2006 or by early January 2007. The newspaper reports indeed have it right: Governor Corzine and the leaders of the legislature are united and doing everything possible to pass discriminatory civil unions bill within this remarkably shorter time.
Where the netroots stepped in and stepped up
For starters, MAJOR props should go out to kossack and Blue Jersey founder jmelli Blue Jersey front pager JRB (who put up lots of funds for this project) as well as the other Blue Jersey front pagers who have kept this issue front and center.
In anticipation of the civil unions bill that was introduced earlier this week in the NJ legislature, Blue Jersey mobilized to put together some advertisements, which were based on the Mac Guy/PC Guy ads and would, in a humorous light, point out the ridiculousness and the hypocrisy of the bills which are attempting to be rammed through the NJ legislature.
Four short pieces were filmed earlier this week and there was good exposure in the press. Some of the New Jersey papers covered the event, such as a photographer from the NJ Star Ledger, as well as the Herald News (check out the article here) and the South Brunswick Post (check out the article here). The ads are part of a “Think Equal” campaign which is prominently posted at the top of the Blue Jersey website. The Think Equal site has good information and examples on why the notion of “civil unions” are a farce and won’t work one bit.
Needless to say, the fact that New Jersey could be the first state to legislate marriage equality is huge. The fact that the netroots, more specifically the very fine folks that I am proud to work with at Blue Jersey were able to pull together these ideas and turn them into actions (and get good press for it as well) is a testament to what we can do to help influence legislation, educate the population and push forward our progressive ideas and ideals.
I will try and keep you updated with any new developments, as this is certain to get some high exposure in New Jersey over the next couple of weeks, and the impact will likely be felt in other states as well. This could serve as a tipping point to shift the debate and discussion from one of discrimination, intolerance and xenophobia to one of acceptance and equality for all people.
Of course, I urge you to please check out the “Think Equal” site and if you are so inclined, there is a button to contribute to the cause.