Senate and Assembly to hold gay marriage veto override before end of term, Gusciora says

Democratic leaders in both the Senate and the Assembly today committed to holding a gay marriage veto override vote before the end of the current legislative term, Assemblyman Reed Gusciora said today.

Gusciora, an openly gay lawmaker who sponsored the bill in the Assembly, said he met with both Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald and both men were committed to putting the bill up for an override.  The bill did not pass in either house with enough votes to override the governor’s action, but gay rights advocates have been working the phones for a year trying to turn lawmakers in their favor.

The bill passed 24-16 in the Senate and 42-33 in the Assembly.  In the Senate, three additional votes are needed to pass an override, while in the Assembly an additional 12 are needed for the two-thirds majority required to override.

“I think we can get the three in the Senate,” he said.  “But the Assembly is a different story.  I can name five who might switch their vote, but it stops there.”

Gusciora said he spoke to both men about the possibility of a ballot initiative to legalize same sex marriage, however Gusciora said Sweeney was against the idea.

“He didn’t close the door entirely, but he said he firmly believes that civil rights should not be on the ballot,” Gusciora said.  “I agree, but I think the worst thing that can happen is the status quo.”

Gusciora said former Garden State Equality Executive Director Steven Goldstein “boxed in” the same-sex marriage movement with a no-ballot initiative stance. But Goldstein has left the organization for a job at Rutgers.

“I think the new Garden State Equality (leadership) is more amenable to putting it on the ballot,” Gusciora said.

Sweeney has told Democrats he prefers to wait for the override until after the June primary election when Republicans may feel more free to vote for the override without fear of retribution from conservative voters or the governor.

Gusciora said the Senate president asked for polling on the issue and Gusciora said he planned to provide it to gauge where state voters stand on the issue.

A spokesman for Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, who would be responsible for posting any override attempt in the Assembly, said today Oliver has always been committed to doing everything possible to override the veto.

"The governor still has to come to bat."
—Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson, on Atlantic City.