holding off

Are New Jersey’s Dems Punting on Marriage Because They, Too, Don’t Have the Votes?

State Senator Stephen Sweeney of NJ

Looks like New Jersey’s Democratic lawmakers are drinking the same tainted water as New York’s: They don’t want to bring gay marriage to a vote unless they’re certain it will pass.

The same reasons you hear New York State’s senators refusing to act on Gov. David Paterson’s demands to vote on marriage are being bandied about across the Hudson River. Senate Majority Leader Stephen Sweeney (pictured), a Dem, told an Atlantic City audience that he backs a play to hold off on marriage until they’ve got enough ducks.

That’s also the opinion of fellow Democratic Sen. Paul Sarlo, who says he won’t bring the bill up for a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee unless he’s assured Democrats can pass the bill on the open floor. This, despite knowing the Judiciary Committee itself has the votes to move it forward. (The entire strategy of holding off until everything is assured has this side effect: Letting lawmakers who would vote yes on the bill sit this round out, because they don’t have to voice their support for something “controversial.”)

But don’t think this is a party-wide stance. As Jersey lawmakers race to pass marriage legislation before Gov. Chris Christie arrives in January, Sen. Loretta Weinberg says Sweeney is backing out of a promise he made to her — and, presumably, others, “to move this important civil rights bill forward.” And in a direct slap in the face to the “we’re too busy” excuses, Weinberg added, “We have the ability in the Legislature to talk about this bill and address the economic crisis at the same time.”

We’ll know more about the outcome of this party hack-ery soon: Jersey’s lame duck session begins today.