A new coalition advocating same-sex marriage in New Jersey initiated its campaign on the Asbury Park boardwalk this morning.
New Jersey United for Marriage [New Jersey United] includes two New Jersey-based civil rights organizations, Garden State Equality and the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, along with national organizations American Unity Fund, Freedom to Marry, the Gill Action Fund, the Human Rights Campaign and Lambda Legal.
At the campaign launch and rally, which drew about 100 people, Shore-area residents, members of clergy and business owners addressed the gathering about their own experiences in support of same-sex marriage.
James Watt, an architect and partner in Asbury businesses Porta and Brickwall Tavern, spoke about two of his business partners, Meg Brunette and Kyle Lepree. Their long-term relationship demonstrates why the state should allow same-sex marriage, said Watt. He said that he makes it a point to have his daughter spend time with Brunette and Lepree, as Watt considers them role models of a positive relationship.
Luisa Paster and Harriet Bernstein, co-chairs of Ocean Grove United, were present on the dais in support of those who shared their stories.
Also speaking were Fred Blumberg and Pete Costello, a couple since 1994. They owned and operated a string of restaurants in Long Branch before moving out of state. They eventually moved back to New Jersey and now reside in Eatontown.
Blumberg and Costello spoke of their difficulty with the hospital system in the state when Costello suffered a cardiac arrest.
“I came home and he was dead on the floor,” said Blumberg. “When I got to the hospital they treated me like a second-class citizen.”
Blumberg was forced to gain power of attorney before he was able to make decisions in the care of his partner. By that time, the hospital had tested Costello for AIDS three times.
“Just racking up the bill,” he said.
Troy Stevenson, executive director of Garden State Equality [at podium in photo at top], promised “marriage equality in New Jersey by the end of the year” and said the campaign would spend “whatever it takes” to do so.
Congressman Frank Pallone, currently a candidate to fill the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by the death of Senator Frank Lautenberg, was also present in the crowd. He had heard about the launch of the campaign and wanted to come show his support, he said.
Pallone voted against the Defense of Marriage Act when it passed Congress in the 1990s, and was pleased to see it finally overturned last month, he said.
New Jersey United for Marriage expects to be well-funded, with support from prominent hedge fund managers and investors, according to a report this morning in the Wall Street Journal.