Rally for gay marriage Advocates gather at City Hall

“Marriage is a universally recognizable label – that is what we are fighting for,” said Walt Boraczek, president of the Hudson Diversity Action Council, at a rally held at City Hall inside the City Council chambers Monday night.

A crowd of over 60 people assembled to discuss the New Jersey Supreme Court’s recent ruling that gay couples are entitled to marriage or a similar partnership endeavor.

On Oct. 25, the state’s highest court ruled 4-3 that the State Legislature has 180 days to amend the marriage statutes “to include same-sex couples or create a parallel statutory structure” to ensure that gay couples receive the same privileges as heterosexual married couples.

The Jersey City Lesbian and Gay Outreach (JCLGO) and Hudson Diversity Action Council organized the rally with only three days’ notice.

Also addressing the attendees were Catherine A. Hecht, executive director of the JCLGO, Joan Hervey of Garden State Equality, Laura Pople, president of the New Jersey Lesbian and Gay Coalition, and Ward E City Councilman Steven Fulop.

The speakers at the rally called for state lawmakers to make it lawful for gays to have the right to actually marry in New Jersey rather than only be granted the civil union alternative, which does not guarantee all rights accorded under marriage.

Massachusetts is the only U.S. state to recognize same-sex marriage, and seven states, including Vermont and California, recognize civil unions.We want marriage!

“It has been four long years – it has been a very uphill battle,” said Jersey City resident Hecht, referring to the fight in New Jersey courts for same-sex partnerships to be recognized in the state.

Hecht’s partner of six years, Beth Achenbach, was in the audience.

Hecht said the struggle wasn’t over, and that there needed to be continuous action by advocates instead of depending on others to make gay marriage a reality.

“In this state, which is so liberal, [where] we have so many great legislators that are willing to hear our voice, it is up to us to make it heard,” she said.

She pointed out that the domestic partnership law, passed in the state in July 2004, does not guarantee enough rights to same-sex couples and neither will a law that allows for civil unions.

“We certainly don’t want to diminish the importance of being a domestic partner for anybody who chooses that road,” said Hecht. “They are not equal to marriage and the 1,000 rights that are possible with that title, and that makes us second-class citizens.”

Boraczek called the Supreme Court decision “a step in the right direction,” explaining how important it was to be known as a “married” person, instead of having a “civil union” title, and how it saves time and money.

“I don’t have to explain to someone what the complexities of a civil union are when I am going to visit my partner in the hospital,” said Boraczek. “I show my marriage license and say this is who I am.”

Pople cited New Jersey’s history of passing laws combating discrimination against gays, and he encouraged the audience to mobilize and educate their families and friends to foster state and federal legislators’ approval of gay marriage.

Hervey cautioned that legislators are leaning toward the civil union route as a quick fix.

“What we don’t want to happen is to have them push something through immediately,” said Hervey. “We need to let Trenton know that marriage is the only answer.” Local support

On a positive note, Hervey said there was broad enough support amongst New Jersey politicians for a gay marriage bill.

Recently, it was reported that Union City Mayor and state Assemblyman Brian Stack would co-sponsor a bill legalizing same-sex marriage.

During the rally, letters from Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy and Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise stating their support for gay marriage were read.

City Councilman Steven Fulop said at the rally that gay marriage “is a progressive idea” and that New Jersey should take the lead in pursuing this initiative. Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at rkaulessar@hudsonreporter.com


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