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Governor Christie Conditionally Vetoes Senate Bill 1

Governor Christie Conditionally Vetoes Senate Bill 1

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Published by: Governor Chris Christie on Feb 21, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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SENATE BILL NO. 1To the Senate:Pursuant to Article V, Section I, Paragraph 14 of the NewJersey Constitution, I am returning Senate Bill No. 1 with myrecommendations for reconsideration.Neither the United States Constitution nor the New JerseyState Constitution contain a right to same-sex marriage. In2006, in Lewis v. Harris, while holding that there is nofundamental constitutional right to same-sex marriage, the NewJersey Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples must beafforded the same rights and benefits that are statutorily givento their heterosexual counterparts. While there is nofundamental constitutional right for individuals of the same sexto marry, same-sex couples now have the rights and benefitsenjoyed by, and burdens and obligations borne by, marriedcouples. Through enactment of P.L.2006, c.103, which providessame-sex couples in a civil union all the statutory rights,benefits, and obligations afforded to married couples, theLegislature granted those benefits statutorily. Since itspassage, thousands of same-sex couples have entered into civilunions. During that time, some citizens of our State havecontinued to engage in an open, honest, and passionatediscussion on what, if any, further changes to the civil unionlaw are appropriate.Now, just five years later, Senate Bill No. 1 seeks toeliminate civil unions and allow couples of the same gender tobe married. While the wisdom of, or need for, same-sex marriagecan be debated, it is beyond dispute that such a step representsa profoundly significant societal change. The framers of ourState Constitution created the referendum process in Article IX
2as the sole mechanism by which the Constitution can be amendedto consider precisely such important issues. I have repeatedlyencouraged, and continue to ask that, the Legislature trust thepeople of New Jersey and seek their input by allowing ourcitizens to vote on the question of same-sex marriage. Thispath of amending the State Constitution, which embraces our mostcherished democratic ideals and is enshrined in our guidinglegal document, is the only way to amend our Constitution andthe best way to resolve the issue of same-sex marriage in ourState.It is also important to understand the nature of theproblems with the State’s civil union law that Senate Bill No. 1seeks to remedy. Since 2007, the New Jersey Division on CivilRights has received over 1,300 complaints related to disability,over 1,200 complaints related to race, and hundreds ofcomplaints in each of the protected areas of national origin,age, and sex. During this same time period, the Division onCivil Rights received only 13 complaints related to civilunions. To be clear, discrimination in the law’s applicationmust not be tolerated, and any complaint alleging a violation ofa citizen’s rights is unacceptable. However, the limited numberof complaints regarding civil unions confirms that New Jersey’scivil union law has been effective.The testimony provided to the Legislature during hearingson Senate Bill No. 1 suggested that some in the State may lack asufficient understanding of all the statutory rights andbenefits afforded to those in a civil union. Accordingly, Irecommend that the bill be revised to create an Ombudsman forCivil Unions in the Department of Law and Public Safety. TheOmbudsman will be charged with increasing awareness of the law
3regarding civil unions and will provide a clear point of contactfor those who have questions or simply concerns that the law isnot being followed. The Ombudsman will coordinate awarenessefforts in consultation with the Division on Civil Rights andthe Department of Health and Senior Services. Further, theOmbudsman will be required to report any evidence of allegationsthat a person or entity is not complying with the law withrespect to civil unions. The Ombudsman for Civil Unions willthus provide an appropriate supplement to our existingprotections against discrimination, and serve as a worthyadvocate to increase awareness of New Jersey’s strong civilunion law that provides the same rights and benefits of those ina marriage.The equality of treatment afforded by New Jersey’s robustcivil union law under the supervision of the new Ombudsman willcarry on New Jersey’s strong tradition of tolerance andfairness. Likewise, presenting the issue of same-sex marriageto the people for decision is the only available way to amendour Constitution. I urge the Legislature to embrace bothprinciples by concurring with the recommended changes to SenateBill No. 1, and sharing the question of same-sex marriage withthe public through referendum this year.I herewith return Senate Bill No. 1 and recommend that itbe amended as follows:Page 2, Title, Line 1: Delete “marriage” insert“civil unions”Page 2, Title, Lines 1-2: Delete “revising variousparts of the statutory law”Page 2, Title, Lines 2-3: Delete “Title 37 of theRevised Statutes, andrepealing section 94 ofP.L.2006, c.103” and insert“Chapter 17B of Title 52 ofthe Revised Statutes”

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