By Darryl R. Isherwood | December 11th, 2012 - 2:38pm
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Sen. President Steve Sweeney today reiterated his position that he does not believe same sex marriage is an issue for voters to decide.

Sweeney was responding to a bill introduced by Assemblyman Reed Gusciora that would place the issue on the ballot next November.

"I have firmly stated before and will say again now that I do not believe you put civil rights on the ballot, period. It is the job of elected officials to ensure that everyone is provided equal protection and equal rights under the law. We should not hide from that responsibility...we should embrace it," Sweeney said in a statement. "We gave the governor an opportunity to ensure true marriage equality in this state, just as other states and nations have done. He punted by shamelessly issuing a conditional veto. I fully plan on overriding that veto before this legislative session is done."

Earlier this year the Legislature passed a measure legalizing same sex marriage, however the bill was vetoed by Gov. Chris Christie who said at the time the state should let voters decide.

While Sweeney voted in favor of the latest iteration of the "marriage equality" bill, he was not always so inclined.  When the measure came before the Legislature in 2009, Sweeney abstained from the vote.  He later called it the worst decision of his political career.

Republicans welcomed Gusciora's attempt to send the issue to the ballot.  State Sen. Kip Bateman, who also has dropped legislation that would place the issue on the November ballot, invited Gusciora to sign on to his measure.

"When I introduced the resolution seeking to put a constitutional amendment before voters, Assemblyman Gusciora and others attacked the idea," said Bateman. "I'm glad that he now understands what I was saying in February: that this is the most pragmatic course of action. A straight up or down vote on legalizing same sex marriage in the Constitution, NOT a 'defense of marriage' law, gives finality to a matter that if handled by simple legislation could be repealed in the future or mired in litigation for years."

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