Gay Marriage Bill Debated in N.J. Committee

Normal 0 Activists lined up inside New Jersey’s Statehouse five hours before a scheduled debate Monday over whether to legalize gay marriage.

The state Senate’s Judiciary Committee is set to consider allowing the marriages. The measure could be up for a vote in the whole Senate on Thursday if the bill clears the committee.

The bill would also need to be passed in the Assembly, where no vote is scheduled.

Proponents are pushing to pass it because Gov. Jon Corzine has said he'd sign it. Gov.-elect Chris Christie says he would veto it.

Four states allow gay marriage, and New Hampshire is to join them on Jan. 1.

The city council in Washington D.C. is expected to allow it there later this month.

New Jersey would become the most populated state with legal gay marriage.

The state is one of a handful with civil unions, which give registered gay couples the same legal rights as married straight couples.

Much of the testimony in the hearing is likely to center on civil unions, with gay marriage opponents saying they provide all the rights gay couples say they want.

But proponents of gay marriage say the civil unions are not well recognized and don't provide the equality that they promised to.

Hundreds of advocates on both sides of the issue started lining up in the State House around 8 a.m. Monday anticipating the hearing, which was scheduled to begin at 1 p.m.

Advocates of gay marriage are wearing T-shirts with “Marriage Equality” on the back. Opponents wore buttons that say, “Let the People Decide” --a call for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

Some opponents softly sang, “Hallelujah” as they waited to be let into the committee room.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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