[JURIST] New Jersey Governor Chris Christie [official website] conditionally vetoed [statement, PDF] a bill legalizing same-sex marriage [Marriage Equality and Religious Exemption Act, PDF] and called for a voter referendum to decide the issue, rather than the state legislature [official website]. In his veto statement, Christie defended the legal importance of a voter referendum:
The framers of our State Constitution created the referendum process in Article IX as the sole mechanism by which the Constitution can be amended to consider precisely such important issues. I have repeatedly encouraged, and continue to ask that, the Legislature trust the people of New Jersey and seek their input by allowing our citizens to vote on the question of same-sex marriage. This path of amending the State Constitution, which embraces our most cherished democratic ideals and is enshrined in our guiding legal document, is the only way to amend our Constitution and the best way to resolve the issue of same-sex marriage in our State.
Christie’s veto comes only one day after the New Jersey State Assembly approved the bill [JURIST report]. Christie stated that there was no constitutional right to same-sex marriage and that New Jersey gay couples have all the rights of married couples through civil unions.
The New Jersey State Assembly approved the bill 42-33 and the State Senate approved [JURIST report] the bill 24-16. Approval of the legislation marks a shift from the legislature’s previous position concerning same-sex marriage. A similar bill was defeated [JURIST report] in the state Senate last year. In November, a lawsuit [JURIST report] was allowed to continue in New Jersey, which seeks declaratory and injunctive relief against the state’s current civil union law as a contravention of both the Fourteenth Amendment [Cornell LII backgrounder] and the New Jersey State Constitution. On Monday, Washington became the eighth jurisdiction [JURIST report] in the US legalizing same-sex marriage.