NJ Democrats Meet in Westfield to Press Republicans to Support Marriage Equality Act

State Senate President Stephen Sweeney, Gubernatorial Nominee Barbara Buono and Garden State Equality Director Troy Stevenson speak.  Credits: Dave Sexton
Senate President Stephen Sweeney Speaks. Credits: Dave Sexton
Barbara Buono speaks at the event. Credits: Dave Sexton
NJ Senator Ray Lesniak speaks at today's event. Credits: Dave Sexton
Son Mike Flanagan and grandchildren Abby and Luke at today's event. Credits: Dave Sexton
Nancy Wilkinson and Liz Flanagan speak outside their home. Credits: Dave Sexton

WESTFIELD, NJ - Key New Jersey Democrats met in Westfield Tuesday to pressure Republicans to join them in overriding Governor Christie's 2012 veto of the Marriage Equality Act.

"This issue is not going away," said State Senate President Stephen Sweeney who, together with leading state Democrats, are trying to persuade New Jersey Republicans to break ranks and support an override.  

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Sweeney was joined at the microphone Gubernatorial nominee Barbara Buono, Senator Nia Gill, Senator Ray Lesniak and Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg

Opponents of the bill contend that the issue should be put to a vote at the ballot box, rather than be decided by legislatures or in courts.

"You're on the wrong side of the moral curve of the universe," said Lesniak, directing his remarks to Governor Chris Christie and state Republicans opposing an override. 

Democrats in attendance also repeatedly called on State Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean to support the override.

A response from Senator Kean was provided by the Senate Republican Office. Senator Kean is a Westfield resident and representative of Union county. 

“Republicans and Democrats from both houses of the legislature believe that this issue should be put before the voters of New Jersey this November. Senator Sweeney is exhibiting a complete lack of faith in the people to offer a permanent solution, one outside the whims and politics of future courts and legislatures," Kean said. 

Tuesday's event was organized by the group Garden State Equality (GSE). 

"1138 federal rights and provisions are being denied to same-sex couples," said GSE Executive Director Troy Stevenson, arguing for the impact a successful override would have to Garden State same-sex partners. Stevenson noted that he made his remarks in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

Tuesday's event was hosted at the home of longtime partners and Westfield residents Liz Flanagan and Nancy Wilkinson, who will celebrate 30 years together July 11. 

"We've always been out there for the community," said Wilkinson, remarking on their support of same sex marriage. 

The override vote must occur before the ending of the current legislative session in January 2014, but  Sweeney would not provide exact timing for that vote at today's event. 

"I would prefer to have the vote happen when we have the votes," said Sweeney. Sweeney also noted that two Republicans have shown their support for the act, but that more votes are needed. 

"We need three more," said Sweeney.  

Flanagan and and Wilkinson were flanked at the event by their son Mike Flanagan and grandchildren Abby and Luke.

Mother and grandmother Liz Flanagan recounted her personal odyssey through the changes in same sex recognition over the course of her long partnership with Wilkinson. 

"At 15 years we had a party in our back yard ... at 25 years we had a civil union in Freehold," said Flanagan, who expressed hope that it would be someday possible in New Jersey to be married. 

"Nice Job, Mom," said Mike Flanagan of her speaking today.

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