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Goldstein to Christie on impending veto

Timothy Kincaid

February 17th, 2012

I have tremendous respect for Steven Goldstein, chairman of Garden State Equality. His is the style of pragmatic goal-driven activism not distracted by personality or partisanship that I wish I could pull off. And his statement on New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s impending veto of the marriage bill illustrates just how capable he is in finding reality while not letting go of the dream and in clarifying the consequences of each.

As we await the Governor’s veto of the marriage equality bill, I beg your indulgence if this statement is a bit more personal than usual. Many in Trenton know that Governor Christie and I have a good relationship. This may come as a surprise, and even disappointment, to some of Garden State Equality’s members, but I like the Governor personally even though I agree with him on almost nothing.

I came of political age where leaders who disagree passionately on the issues, who even fight with one another like cats and dogs in the political arena, were able put the fights aside and see one another as people. I grew up at a time when the legendary Democratic Speaker of the U.S. House, Tip O?Neill – a hero of mine – and President Reagan did exactly that. And it’s always been my philosophy in dealing with Governor Christie and his Administration.

And having worked for several public officials myself, I know there’s a heck of lot more to them than their public images would suggest. No public figure is the two-dimensional character of the headlines. As Garden State Equality’s leader, I have worked closely with this Governor on issues upon which we agree, notably to counter school bullying.

As I have said before, where we agree with them on the issues, Governor Christie and his Administration have treated us with warmth and responsiveness. Yes is yes, no is no, and we’ll get back to you means they get back to you faster than you thought, usually with invaluable help.

And that’s precisely why Governor Christie’s veto of the marriage equality bill will hurt so badly. We’re not naïve – we’ve always known he would veto the bill, and frankly, I was always a bit puzzled by the silly tea-leaf reading and phantasmagoric hopes that perhaps the Governor would look deep inside his heart and let the bill become law. Ridiculous. I know this Governor, and when he says he’ll do something, take him at his word, for better and here for worse.

It’s why I chose not to waste a breath in pleading with the Governor not to veto – and have put Garden State Equality immediately to work to achieve an override. The great news is, we have until the end of the legislative session, in January 2014, to do it.

That doesn’t obviate the pain of the Governor’s veto. Because I do know him, I also know he is not some anti-LGBT nut. He is no Rick Santorum. Frankly, I don’t think Chris Christie has an anti-gay bone in his body, however much I cannot say the same about his impending veto. His veto will be a brutally anti-gay act, pure and simple.

The Governor keeps calling for a referendum, which everyone knows will never happen in New Jersey. To borrow the Governor’s words, it’s time for him to stop engaging in political theater. Our lives are not La Cage Aux Folles: LGBT people fall in love, raise families, often children whom the rest of society shuns, and pay taxes in what is still one of the most heavily taxed states in the country.

Our Governor knows our contributions to society. He won’t veto the bill because he’s anti-gay. He’ll veto the bill because the 2016 South Carolina Republican Presidential primary electorate is anti-gay. And if I get flooded with letters now from Charleston, so be it.

And that’s what hurts so badly. I like this Governor and am able to see him beyond the headlines. When you are rejected by someone you want so badly to love you unconditionally – my own parents have taught me what that’s like – the pain is searing. Rick Santorum I can live with. Gerry Cardinale I can live with, too. But Chris Christie’s rejection? That hurts.

Governor, rest assured that even though I came of political age in an era where political adversaries could be friends – and if you’re game, we’ll continue that good relationship – Garden State Equality and I will continue to fight you on marriage equality with every bone in our bodies. You would expect no less.

For us, this is not about politics. This is about our fundamental American right to conduct our lives with a full life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Equality.

And until we achieve it, we will fight with our every last breath. And we will win, so help me God.

Comments

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Belar
February 17th, 2012 | LINK

This is definitely one of the classiest responses that I’ve ever seen in a situation like this. It’s just unfortunate the the political reality that we live in makes this necessary at all. I wish Christie had the courage to do what was right, consequences be damned.

Erin
February 17th, 2012 | LINK

Just have to correct you Timothy. His name is Steven Goldstein.

Jim Hlavac
February 17th, 2012 | LINK

In my 40 or so years of observing the political climate for gays it has never bothered me that any particular politician doesn’t get all gay-lovin’ right away, or is what I call “gay-perplexed.” 40 years ago our very smooching was illegal in virtually every state, we were considered psychologically and psychiatrically crazy (the only condition of mankind to ever win both designations,) and we were (well, 90% or more of us,) chased away from our own homes and families. And over the past 40 years, without really any laws for us, nor any real governmental push to make it better for gays, we gay folks have gone individual to individual to make our case. We did the grass roots work that other political forces just dream of.

We have been winning over hetero America (and heteros worldwide for that matter,) one individual at a time. Every hetero has had to “evolve,” as our own president is currently doing. There is no political position to gayness. It’s just something so different to heteros that they have had to make great strides to dealing with the reality of us and our insistence that they will come around to give us what is due and treat us decently.

We have won many battles, and lost quite a few, but with each passing day it has gotten better in this 40 years I refer to — and which started 20 years before I came on the scene (think of Frank Kameny.) Only now we live in a remote controlled society with instant internet on i-phones — and so we expect every hetero to jump to us. And we’re impatient. But the reality is that eventually this long fight will be over. And so I really can’t get worried that Christie is vetoing a bill which just two years ago would not have even been passed for him to consider one way or the other.

These are the best times for gays, it will only get better. Patience, my fellow gay folks, for heteros are perplexed about us, but they’re all going to come around. Even Rick Santorum will one day see the light, of this I’m sure. 40 years of dealing with heteros has taught me this.

andrew
February 17th, 2012 | LINK

Fantastic response. And you can almost hear Christie saying “great! you do what you gotta do, and i’ll do what i gotta do. let’s go to lunch on tuesday and commiserate.” and privately, “good luck on the override.”

it’s been illumuminating to hear that Christie has been so willing to work on other LGBT issues. In the huge shadow cast by the marriage issue, the other issues such as bullying and employment non-discrimination — no less important — haven’t gotten much attention.

The author is 100% right when he says that this absolutely matters. Because if we tar Christie with the same brush as Santorum, we teach conservatives that there is nothing to be gained by reaching across the aisle, ever, and they might as well line up against us with the wingnuts. We teach the ultraconservatives that they have a winning hand. We teach the Dems that they don’t have to try so hard because we don’t have options. We tell the general public that we’re unreasonable and uncompromising, and it makes us sound reactionary.

As much as i know a great many LGBT folks who operate in the political sphere are liberal, and that message has percolated out to the general LGBT crowd (try telling anyone in a gay bar that you’re a republican and you can suddenly hear a pin drop), the GOP does have things to say to the totality of our community on other issues (when the gop’s not veering into crazytown where it’s been stuck lately), and it will again when it gets its head screwed on straight. We need always to ensure a competitive political environment where we are positioned to promote the best ideas and force all the candidates to vie for our vote.

Ben In Oakland
February 17th, 2012 | LINK

I don’t think Christie is anti gay, just pro Christie. I firmly believe he is like a great many people who appear to be antigay. The reality is, they don’t give much of a small rats about the issue, because it doesn’t affect them.

And when it does, or they think it does, then they act accordingly. And that’s just what he’s doing.

As Dorothy said to her three companions:

“No brains, no heart, no courage. How come you guys aren’t politicians?”

CPT_Doom
February 17th, 2012 | LINK

I agree the message is classy, but quite frankly the notion that Christie is only vetoing this because of “political realities” makes his actions all the more vile. It is one thing if one is a true believer, like Frothy Mix, but that is not the case here. Rather, a governor is refusing to recognize the basic legal equality of the citizens of his state purely because it would be politically disadvantageous to do so. That is hypocrisy of the highest order.

I understand why the head of Garden State Equality must maintain a good relationship with the governor, but that does not mean all LGBT people who interact with Christie have to follow suit. It was interesting in NY that many of the legislators who changed their votes on equality did so because they were made aware of the pain they were causing by LGBT people who were close to them. Christie needs to hear from the LGBT people in his life as well, and not always in the same manner as expressed here.

I think he needs to experience a bit of the prejudice he is advocating himself. I would love to find out that friends of his kids, for instance, refuse to speak to him, or a favorite barista won’t make his latte – stuff like that.

Andrew M.
February 17th, 2012 | LINK

Hear hear! With every breath.

Regan DuCasse
February 17th, 2012 | LINK

Of course it hurts.
And a gay person that hurts, matters not at all. A gay person can be compelled to participate in the general welfare of a state. Pay taxes, adopt children from institutions that the state pays for and be all manner of law abiding and compassionate.
Express understanding, and interest in the hurts and needs of others.
But those of the gay community, well…those aren’t valid.
Hurt, crushing disappointment, exhaustive patience and depths of courage…so what?

Even as political men like Christie or many others have their hands out for campaign donations from the gay community, they’ll still think those dollars, those votes and unconditional support from gay people is either a given or unimportant since this is a minority that can never have any political balance anywhere. Therefore NO political clout that he needs to concern himself with.

Yet, he and even Santorum, will mention gay ‘friends’, who are somehow quite invisible to confirming it. Unless the odd campaign manager or other lowly worker that happens to be gay is who they are talking about.
But they are still showing that gay person in their professional midst that they aren’t worthy of being married legally, adopting a child who needs a family, nor of any of the rights and protections that’s supposed to go with the commitment to paying taxes and other tangible standards of social participation and responsibility.

Pay up, shut up…and no matter what, I’ll show you gay people who owns the political process from which you are subject and have no say in how you are to determine you own legal protections.
The betrayal, these bald two faces that such people can display, make me utterly sick.

It’s true, you do know where you are with Santorum.
Some who have supremacist values are only a bit more honest about it than others.
Not knowing who has the knife poised, while being criticized for not trusting what the het majority is going to do to you, is truly terrible.
Pens, knives…what’s the difference in this instance?

Norm!
February 17th, 2012 | LINK

Wow. Thank you for sharing Goldman’s statement. It has given much to think about.

I sympathize with Goldman’s feeling of being hurt by someone you admire. Last night, I discovered some relatives’ names on the 2009 Washington state anti-gay petition (whosigned.org just published the list yesterday). Obviously, I wasn’t too surprised since I had searched for their names, but I have to admit that I’m having trouble with the idea of acting friendly with those that actively oppose my civil rights. It’s one position to disagree, but to actively veto legislation or sign a petition is somehow seems worse than even privately voting.

Dale
February 17th, 2012 | LINK

To bad Goldman had to ruin an almost eloquent speech with the source of all hate. Mythology ruins everything.

Timothy Kincaid
February 17th, 2012 | LINK

Oh lord, after saying how much I respect him I got his name wrong.

Priya Lynn
February 17th, 2012 | LINK

If people want to pretend someone who’d veto marriage equality isn’t anti-gay they’re welcome to do so but I won’t be drinking the kool-aid.

If you want to make the case that it’d be politically advantageous to not call him anti-gay to his face or friends or in public I can entertain that idea but don’t ever expect me when I’m alone with my closest friends to falsely claim Christie or anyone else who opposes full equality is not anti-gay.

StraightGrandmother
February 17th, 2012 | LINK

Great article, terrific comments the the Equality guy and really GREAT thoughts and comments above. ALL of you, ALL really insightful comments.

Timothy Kincaid
February 17th, 2012 | LINK

CPT_Doom

I agree the message is classy, but quite frankly the notion that Christie is only vetoing this because of “political realities” makes his actions all the more vile.

I don’t disagree. But I suspect that Christie wouldn’t get it or understand why you think he’s hypocritical. Hell, he’s gone on TV arguing in favor of civil unions and insisting that government must respect its gay citizens. He probably genuinely believes himself to be a pro-gay activist of sorts and, in comparison to other Republicans, he is.

But it still is vile and extremely annoying and hurtful because this is a guy who doesn’t hate us, who believes in fairness, who isn’t really personally opposed to equality. But – and it’s the bang your head on the wall but – he just doesn’t cross the line into realizing what this is all about.

I believe that if Christie truly understood what he’s doing that he’s the type of guy who wouldn’t let North Carolina primaries be his biggest priority. But ‘redefining the word marriage to include gay people’ isn’t important enough to him. You have your civil unions and all the state departmental stuff and he protects bullied kids and this is all a big fuss over a word.

It’s not.

This isn’t about marriage, redefined or otherwise. This isn’t about rights which come with the word or even societal prestige.

This issue is far bigger than what we call our relationships. It’s about that idea that we all like to think that we believe but which goes against so many of our instincts that every generation has to struggle mightily to live up to it: that all men should be measured not by what they were born with but by what they make of it. And the notion that government does not administer this idea, does not dole it out or reel it in, but answers to it.

When someone applies their efforts and drive and intellect and sacrifices and gets to the place they are going, no man or government is entitled to say, “no, not you. You have the wrong color, social standing, education, and genitalia.”

Christie isn’t seeing it this way. To him its a matter of addressing needs. He’ll happily sign upgrades to civil unions or directives making sure they are honored. That fixes the immediate problem.

But he just can’t see that this isn’t about fishing licenses or hospital visitation. I’m happy that he doesn’t want me to be denied the provisions of government.

But that’s not what I’m asking for. I’m demanding something that neither he nor the citizenry have the right to grant or deny: equal standing.

This is a birthright issue. Equality is mine. Maybe he can’t see it, but it’s mine.

But with a good heart and the best of intentions Christie is blindly standing between me and what I’m entitled to saying, “no, not you, not now”.

StraightGrandmother
February 17th, 2012 | LINK

Maybe Christie will change after DOMA is struck down. There will be no denying the fact then, that Civil Unions are Equal to Marriage. If he is ever going to change, it will probably be after DOMA dies.

Keppler
February 22nd, 2012 | LINK

Yes, Christie will “evolve” someday, when his policies get in the way of his electability. Suddenly he’ll “regret” his veto publicly, and expect that all will be forgiven. I, however, will remember his opportunism, his cowardice, and will remind my friends that this was a legislator more interested in doing what was good for himself than for his state or his society.

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