As many students at Boston College have likely witnessed, when two New Jerseyans realize they share a home state, there appears to be an instant bond, a sort of love at first sight.
No matter where college or work takes New Jersey natives, they seem to have two characteristics inseparable from their identities: a die-hard pride and love for “dirty Jerz” and the need to lovingly mock their home state in all its glory. Although small in geography, the population is relatively huge, and, somehow, the 8.7 million residents manage to all get along.
Maybe it’s because it is the most densely populated state, but people from New Jersey understand the importance of closeness, and the kind of love you have for people you don’t want space between.
This sense of closeness finally extends to the state's marriage laws. New Jersey has finally legalized gay marriage. With all the controversy over gay marriage as of late, not to mention the fact that Governor Chris Christie is rumored to be the 2016 Republican presidential candidate, the development has caught a lot of attention.
Let’s break it down: In 2006, the New Jersey Supreme Court recognized the “equal needs and common humanity” of same-sex couples in serious relationships who had children. This led to the January 2007 passage of a bill legalizing civil unions by the New Jersey legislature.
In February 2012, after realizing the amount of rights still denied to same-sex couples because of the difference between civil unions and marriages, the New Jersey legislature voted to pass the Freedom to Marry bill, effectively legalizing gay marriage. Governor Christie vetoed the bill.
The legislature had until January 2014 to override Christie’s veto, and with all the national attention gay marriage was getting this summer, New Jerseyans ramped up the fight for marriage equality.
If you have friends from NJ on Facebook, chances are you’ve seen them post updates from sites like New Jersey United for Marriage, a well-known statewide coalition, or from Human Rights Campaign, the largest civil rights organization dedicated to LGBT equality in the US. New Jerseyans have impressively and aggressively rallied together and demanded that their representatives override the veto.
On Sept. 27, 2013, Mercer County Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson ruled in favor of same-sex marriage in Garden State Equality v. Dow, a federal lawsuit challenging the state's civil union law and seeking the freedom to marry for same-sex couples. People all over New Jersey held their breath until Oct. 18, when the NJ Supreme Court denied a request for a stay in the marriage case, confirming same-sex marriage was here and ready for New Jersey couples.
The first same-sex marriages were scheduled for midnight on Oct. 21, 2013. As knots were tied, and the state broke out in victorious celebration, there was a strong sense of something monumental happening.
This was the first time the legislature reversed a Christie veto, causing New Jersey to be the fourteenth state to legalize gay marriage. Even better is the fact that in an almost-wedding gift presentation, Christie decided to drop his appeal of Judge Jacobson’s pro-marriage ruling as the first sets of couples offered their vows.
Although NJ is made up of all kinds of people from all kinds of backgrounds, it seems that the majority agree on the importance of equality for all. Sixty-four percent of New Jerseyans are in full support of marriage equality, while only 30 percent say they do not support it.
The Garden State has certainly done a lot of growing. Just one year ago, the polls read that only 53 percent of New Jerseyans were in support of same-sex marriage, while 42 percent were against it.
Public support isn’t the only thing expected to skyrocket. By this time next year, the number of New Jerseyans united for marriage will be even higher. That’s a pretty neat statistic coming from the dirty Jerz.
Featured image via erin m/Flickr.