About Time

Former GOP State Chairman: New Jersey and Gay Marriage Belong Together

Tom Wilson, former head of the state Republican party, on why same-sex marriage should come to New Jersey.

Julio Cortez/AP

The freedom to marry for all loving and committed couples is one step closer in New Jersey.

I am proud that more and more Republicans across New Jersey are stepping up to support the freedom to marry. Assembly members Declan O’Scanlon, Holly Schepisi, and Chris Brown have joined Senators Jennifer Beck and Diane Allen in recently making public their support of same-sex marriage. As a former state party chairman, I encourage more Republican officer holders to do what they know in their hearts to be right.

Businesses are demanding it. Religious leaders have for many years called on the state to remedy the injustice of denying it. Garden State voters from all walks of life are contacting their elected representatives in overwhelming numbers. Almost everyone has a family member, close friend or co-worker who has suffered for its absence.

To paraphrase the great Republican leader Everett Dirksen: marriage equality is an idea whose time has come.

Recently New Jersey's courts affirmed that it is a constitutional violation to deny our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters the right to marry the person they love. Weddings are set to begin on October 21, and all attempts to delay have so far been prevented. In her decision, Judge Mary Jacobson wrote, “Every day that the State does not allow same-sex couples to marry, [they] are being harmed.”

How are they being harmed? As long as New Jersey insists on the term “civil union,” same-sex couples will be continue to be denied more than 1,000 protections and benefits that heterosexual couples take for granted.

It’s about being able to use the Family and Medical Leave Act to care for a sick spouse. It’s about widows not having to sell their homes to pay the federal death tax. It’s about not having to pay a federal tax surcharge that heterosexual couples are exempt from. Civil unions were New Jersey's first effort to treat same-sex couples more equally. However, it quickly became apparent that civil unions don’t work. As Judge Jacobson wrote, “no commonly understood definition of just what a ‘civil union’ means” exists, causing confusion and harm. They are separate and unequal arrangements, even more so now because the federal government does not recognize them. What it recognizes is marriage between loving and committed couples.

New Jersey will soon be a freer state. It’s not a question of if, but only when and how. The courts have spoken, and now it’s time for the legislature to act. A law recognizing same-sex marriages is the quickest and surest way to protect our citizens and give all loving, committed couples the freedom to marry.

We need to listen to young Republicans, who are the future of our party. We need to listen to the many grassroots activists and party officers who want our party to stay true to its core convictions by passing a marriage equality law.

Republicans are supporting the freedom to marry because we stand for limited government, personal liberty, and strong, stable families. The freedom to marry is consistent with our longstanding values.

We’ve reached a turning point in the history of our state and our nation. Republicans have an opportunity to be on the right side of history. We have a chance to rise in defense of liberty and freedom, to defend families, and to relieve the tax burden for tens of thousands of New Jersey couples.

This isn't about modifying our values or views, it's about advancing them. The freedom to marry is a freedom worth fighting for. It's the right thing to do for all the right reason.