By Heather Haddon
New Jersey Democrats believe they are within spitting distance of securing enough support to override a veto of same-sex marriage legislation if Gov. Chris Christie chooses not support it.
State Sen. Raymond Lesniak, one of the bill’s sponsors, estimated the chamber had between 24 and 27 supporters for legislation to allow for same-sex marriage in New Jersey. It takes 27 votes in the 40-member state senate to override a governor’s veto.
“I’m wishing and hoping,” said Lesniak, who also acknowledged that some potential supporters still needed “shoring up.”
Lesniak, a Democrat representing Union County, counted up to 23 Democrats and four Republicans as supporting a gay marriage, but wouldn’t disclose specific names of those he believes would vote to override a veto.
Assembly Speaker Shelia Oliver, a Democrat, has said that she has majority support for same-sex marriage legislation, and that she would work to garner the 54 votes necessary for a veto override in the 80-member Assembly.
Still, Christie noted in a interview with WNYC on Wednesday that the Legislature hasn’t been succeeded so far in passing a same-sex marriage bill, and emphasized that his opposition has been “very well publicized.”
“I think this type of societal change is something we need to do very deliberately and have as much public input as we possibly can,” the Republican governor said.
A new Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday found 52% of New Jersey voters favor gay marriage , the first time approval has topped 50%. Support varies by party affiliation: majorities of Democratic (62%) and independent voters (54%) are in favor, while only 35% of Republicans approve, according to the poll.
Last week, Senate and Assembly Democrats announced that they were introducing the Marriage Equality and Religious Exemption Act in their chambers as the first bills of the new legislative session . The Senate Judiciary Committee will take up the legislation on Tuesday. The Assembly is yet to schedule a committee hearing on the bill.
Senate President Stephen Sweeney, a Democrat, said he wanted a floor vote on the legislation before the budget break, which comes in March. Sweeney previously abstained on the bill when it first came up for a vote in 2010, but he has said he now sees it as a civil rights issue.
In 2003, New Jersey became one of the first states to authorize civil unions for same-sex couples. The bill now under consideration would allow couples with a civil union to “immediately” get a marriage license if they seek one.