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The results of a referendum nearly a century ago shows the rights of one group should not be determined by public vote, according to a New Jersey senator opposed to a state referendum on gay marriage.
Asked in a recent interview about Gov. Chris Christie’s desire to let New Jersey voters decide whether to allow marriage between same-sex couples, Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen) said, "we’re not going to do that."
"So he can want to do it, but there is a strong feeling, and I know the feeling on the part of our Senate President Steve Sweeney, that we don't put equal justice ideas on the ballot. The last time that happened in New Jersey apparently was around 1915, it was women's right to vote, women's suffrage. And by the way, it went down in New Jersey. And it took the Legislature to pass it," Weinberg said in a Feb. 7 appearance on NJToday.
PolitiFact New Jersey found Weinberg is right. In 1915, the men of New Jersey decided a woman’s place was not in the voting booth. Five years later, the state Legislature ratified the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which confirmed a woman’s right to vote.
Here’s the history:
Under New Jersey’s 1776 state Constitution, women were not specifically excluded from the right to vote. And some women did vote, according to "Reclaiming Lost Ground: The Struggle for Woman Suffrage in New Jersey" by Neale McGoldrick and Margaret Crocco. It is estimated that as many as 10,000 women in New Jersey voted between 1790 and 1807, the year the state Legislature restricted voting rights to men.
Suffragists waged state and national campaigns. Though some states succeeded in granting women the right to vote before the federal amendment was ratified in 1920, states on the East Coast struggled, "challenged by political bosses, liquor interests, and others who feared that woman suffrage would result in prohibition," McGoldrick and Crocco wrote.
By 1915, suffragists in New Jersey -- as well as in New York, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania -- managed to put a woman’s right to vote on the ballot. All four measures failed.
In New Jersey, more than 184,000 residents voted against the referendum, compared with more than 133,000 who voted for it. Majorities in every county voted the ballot question down, except for Ocean County where it passed by less than 160 votes, according to a breakdown of the vote from the New Jersey Historical Society.
"New Jersey law did not permit the amendment to be reintroduced into the Legislature for five years. Since the amendment had to be submitted to two successive Legislatures for approval, this meant that a New Jersey amendment was at least seven years off," according to McGoldrick and Crocco.
But women in New Jersey didn’t have to wait seven years. In 1919, Congress passed the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which declared no citizen could be denied the right to vote on the basis of sex. The New Jersey Legislature ratified the amendment in 1920, making the state the 29th to do so.
Weinberg claimed that when women’s suffrage was put to a referendum in 1915 "it went down in New Jersey. And it took the Legislature to pass it."
Nearly a century ago, New Jersey defeated a measure giving women the right to vote by 184,390 to 133,282. Five years later, the state Legislature ratified the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
We rate this claim True.
To comment on this ruling, go to NJ.com.
NJTV, Interview with state Sen. Loretta Weinberg, Feb. 7, 2012
Interview with state Sen. Loretta Weinberg, Feb. 9, 2012
Reclaiming Lost Ground: The Struggle for Woman Suffrage in New Jersey by Neale McGoldrick and Margaret Crocco
Alice Paul Institute, New Jersey Women’s History, accessed Feb. 8, 2012
PolitickerNJ.com, Former Advocate offers history lesson on referendums, Jan. 24, 2012
Women’s Project of New Jersey, New Jersey Woman Suffrage Referendum of 1915, Vote by Counties, accessed Feb. 8, 2012
Women’s Project of New Jersey, Notable Facts, accessed Feb. 9, 2012
Interview with Deborah Mercer, New Jersey Collections Librarian at the New Jersey State Library, Feb. 9, 2012
New Jersey Legislative Manual, Referendums Since 1947: pgs. 942-954
The City University of New York, Voting Rights and Citizenship: Women’s Suffrage, accessed Feb. 9, 2012
Interview with Valerie Buickerood, executive director of the Alice Paul Institute, Feb. 9, 2012
New Jersey Department of State, The Early Woman's Movement, accessed Feb. 9, 2012
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