MARRIAGE NEWS: N.J. gubernatorial election could decide if 'gay marriage' is legalized

TRENTON, N.J. (BP)--The future of "gay marriage" in New Jersey may come down to who wins what likely will be a tight gubernatorial race this fall.

Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine, who favors "gay marriage" and has pledged to sign a bill legalizing it, is running for re-election. His possible Republican challenger, former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie, opposes "gay marriage" and has pledged to veto such a bill.

Corzine enters the campaign as the underdog; a Feb. 12 Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey poll showed his job approval rating at 34 percent and his disapproval rating at 51 percent. Christie led Corzine in two recent polls: A Quinnipiac University poll had Christie up 44-38 percent and a Rasmussen poll had Christie ahead 42-40 percent.

But before Christie makes it to a general election match-up, he must first win his party's primary.

Last year, in the midst of the Obama-McCain general election campaign, a Corzine spokeswoman said the governor favored signing a "gay marriage" bill but didn't want to do it in 2008 and "make it a presidential election year issue." But now that it's 2009, Corzine is facing his own re-election campaign and the state and nation are in the midst making serious economic decisions. A "gay marriage" bill may not get a vote this year, either. Democrats control both chambers.

The state already recognizes same-sex civil unions, and in December a 13-member state panel -- which critics said was biased from the get-go -- recommended that the state legalize "gay marriage."

"Same-sex marriage in New Jersey is only a matter of 'when,' not 'if,'" Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts, a Democrat, said in a statement at the time. "The report should spark a renewed sense of purpose and urgency to overcoming one of society's last remaining barriers to full equality for all residents."

The state legislature legalized same-sex civil unions after the New Jersey Supreme Court ordered it to grant homosexual couples all the legal benefits of marriage.

Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press.