ASBURY PARK – New Jersey United for Marriage, a broad-based campaign supporting the lifetime promise of love, commitment and responsibility for all New Jersey residents hosted a kickoff rally on Wednesday, July 24, at 11:00 AM on the boardwalk at Asbury Park. The rally formally introduced the campaign and its lead partners, including Garden State Equality; the American Civil Liberties Union of NJ; American Unity Fund; Freedom to Marry; Gill Action Fund; the Human Rights Campaign; and Lambda Legal.

“Today’s announcement is a game-changer. Over the past decade, Garden State Equality has moved public opinion from minority to majority support for marriage,” said Troy Stevenson, Executive Director of Garden State Equality. “With over 60 percent of New Jerseyans supporting marriage equality, we are in the last leg of a marathon race and are inviting everyone to run the last mile with us.”

“Today, we are proud to stand with our state and national partners to bring marriage equality over the finish line. The striking down of DOMA by the Supreme Court changed the landscape for marriage equality, and New Jersey is now the epicenter of the next big fight,” said Udi Ofer, Executive Director of the ACLU of New Jersey. “The inequality between New Jersey and our neighbors, like New York and Delaware, is now more pronounced than ever. With DOMA struck down, the term civil union is preventing New Jersey’s LGBT couples from being eligible for hundreds of federal benefits, such as Social Security, tax and medical benefits. New Jersey’s separate and unequal civil union system must end, and New Jersey’s LGBT couples must be treated with the same dignity and respect as all other couples.”

Speaking at the rally were leaders of New Jersey United, several families who are directly impacted by the state’s civil union law, clergy members and local small business owners. Modeled after successful efforts in New York, Rhode Island, Maryland, and Maine, the campaign will broaden the existing coalition of supporters to engage new groups, including Main Street businesses, large corporate employers, industry organizations and Republicans.

"As an organization that has been fighting in court for over 10 years for New Jersey same-sex couples to marry, Lambda Legal is proud to be a part of this coalition and will work with our partners to pursue all roads to justice," said Leslie Gabel-Brett, Director of Education and Public Affairs for Lambda Legal.

“The issue at hand is simple,” said Jeff Cook-McCormac, Senior Advisor to American Unity Fund. “We’re here because we believe that it’s not government’s proper role to interfere with someone’s happiness. Government must not limit our freedoms, including our freedom to marry the person we love.”

The Marriage Equality and Religious Exemptions Act passed in the State Senate and Assembly in February 2012, but was vetoed shortly thereafter. NJ United for Marriage seeks an override of the veto by early January 2014.

“We all want the protections and responsibilities of marriage: the ability to raise our children free of government intrusion, access to health care, meaningful retirement security and the right to care for a sick spouse without fear of losing a job or health insurance,” said Marty Rouse, National Field Director Human Rights Campaign.