Stephen Reader covers politics for It's a Free Country, WNYC's interactive politics site. He joined the station in 2010 and has also worked for Studio 360, WNYC's Peabody Award-winning show about art, culture, and creativity.
Despite a veto threat from Governor Chris Christie, New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney says the legislature is poised to pass a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in the Garden State.
The State Senate, which voted against legalization two years ago, will be first to take up the bill early next week. Senator Sweeney, a Democrat, was among those voting against the bill in 2010, a decision he now calls "wrong" and "a political calculation."
Appearing on the Brian Lehrer Show this morning, the Sweeney said he's come around to supporting same-sex marriage, and his chamber has the votes to pass it. "It is absolutely going to pass on Monday, and I expect it to pass the Assembly on Thursday, and it's going to go to the governor's desk."
Governor Christie has called for a state-wide referendum on the issue instead, and this week Republican Senator Kip Bateman introduced legislation to put it on the ballot. Sweeney says the Democrats wouldn't support a referendum.
"You don't put civil rights on the ballot," Sweeney told Brian Lehrer. "When you put it on the ballot, the majority will always deny the minority."
If and when Christie vetoes the same-sex marriage bill, it would require a two-thirds majority vote in both the Assembly and the Senate to override. While Sweeney is confident that the legislation will pass next week, he said he does not have the two-thirds majority necessary to counter a Christie veto.
But a defeat this year wouldn't keep him from trying again to legalize same-sex marriage again during the rest of his term.
"If the governor vetoes the bill, we're gonna fight to override the governor," Sweeney said. "I have two years to do it almost, so that gives us plenty of time to work on people."