It’s like one of those movies…just when you think the protagonist has escaped danger, a new threat emerges. Sometimes, the danger is not “new” at all, but just the same old threat which never really went away.
For weeks, “uncertainty about its fate” has been the easiest way to describe gay marriage legislation. As the obituaries were being written yet again this week, Senate President Dick Codey announces that he will post the bill for a full Senate vote on January 7th.
What has changed since the bill’s chief sponsors asked the Senate not to vote on it last month because there weren’t enough votes to get it passed? It’s hard to say. Perhaps nothing. Although incoming Senate President Stephen Sweeney left the door slightly ajar when Claire Heininger of the Star-Ledger and I grabbed him after Dana Redd’s swearing in ceremony Tuesday afternoon in Camden.
Sweeney ( who had been on stage for roughly two hours during the Redd ceremony ) seemed slightly caught off guard when we told him that Codey had made the announcement via press release slightly after 2 pm. He did however, refer to gay marriage as a “civil rights issue,” but declined to say how he would vote. Opponents of the bill once seemed pretty sure that Sweeney was in their camp…and perhaps he still is. Sweeney went on to say that many Democrats are struggling with this one. true dat.
Codey, does not seem real intent on easing that suffering. His surprise announcement puts a lot of conservative Democrats in a position they were hoping not to be in. This, as the progressive wing of the party threatens to unseat them for voting “no.”
Coupla points here…first of all, the right wing of the Republican party has been playing this game for years. Particularly at the national level. It’s not that they vote Democrat when they don’t get what they want, it’s that they either support a primary challenger or simply don’t vote on election day. In fact, it was the conservative wing of the party here in NJ that pressured Repubs who who were leaning towards voting for gay marriage. But the left wing of the Dem party often seems less inclined to play that kind of hard ball. They are threatening to do so now, and it sounds like they are serious. Can they muster enough strength to force some hands? That remains to be seen in the next few election cycles.
Also coming into play here is the Sweeney-Codey struggle from this past Fall ( see earlier posts ).
Finally, There was another fairly significant development in the last few days. 120 clergy members from across the state representing 19 different faiths and denominations sent a letter to Codey, Roberts and Corzine urging a vote on gay marriage. Among the signatories was Chuck Rush, Corzine’s personal pastor from Summit.
Religious leaders – notably Catholic Bishops and Hasidic Rabbis have come out strongly against gay marriage. But it’s now at least a toss up over whether more clergy support this bill than oppose it here in NJ.