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62 percent of New Jersey voters would approve marriage equality bill, poll shows

Marriage equality

By Jacob Combs

A Rutgers-Eagleton poll released yesterday found strong support for marriage equality in New Jersey, with 62 percent of respondents saying that would vote in favor of equal marriage rights for same-sex couple if the question were put to a ballot referendum.

Only 30 percent of respondents said they would vote no on such a referendum, while a full 69 percent of respondents said that they supported the idea of a marriage equality referendum in general.

Support for a ballot measure was extremely high amongst voters under 30, with 82 percent saying they supported a referendum.  Notably, supporters of marriage equality were much more eager for the chance to vote on the issue than those opposed: 75 percent of respondents who supported a ballot question also supported equal marriage rights for same-sex couples.  Only 20 percent who wanted a referendum said they would vote no.

These numbers are significant because they demonstrate a clear expectation–whether correct or not–among New Jersey residents that a marriage equality referendum would be approved by a vote of the people.  This opinion is no doubt influenced by the results of the 2012 election, when LGBT rights advocates won marriage equality-related ballot campaigns in four states.

The New Jersey legislature approved a marriage equality bill in early 2012 which was then vetoed by Republican Gov. Chris Christie.  Democratic leaders in the legislature have been working to obtain the 2/3 vote in both houses to override the veto; in February, they announced a plan to hold a vote before the end of the current legislative session in 2014.

Supporters of marriage equality in the state, along with the legislature’s Democratic leadership, have opposed a ballot initiative to settle the marriage equality debate.  Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, the openly gay representative who chaperoned the bill in 2012, has said that he would consider pushing for a referendum, as we reported in Feburary:

Steven Goldstein, the executive director of Garden State Equality when the bill was considered in the legislature last year, was firmly opposes to a ballot measure, as are Democratic leaders in both chambers.  But Goldstein is now working at Rutgers, and Gusciora sees the new leadership at the LGBT organization as “more amenable to putting it on the ballot.”

If a veto override does happen, Gusciora expressed a desire to wait until after the June primary election to provide cover for Republican legislators who might fear voting in favor of marriage equality only to be campaigned against by social conservatives or Gov. Christie himself.

While polling numbers should always be taken with a grain of salt, the Rutgers-Eagleton poll demonstrates that LGBT advocates in New Jersey could be off to a strong start if they did decide to pursue the referendum route.

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