Christie Vetoes New Jersey Marriage Bill
February 17th, 2012
As expected, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie today vetoed the marriage equality bill that passed the House yesterday and the Senate on Monday. In his veto message, Christie asserted that civil unions should be just as good as marriage, and that “Discrimination should not be tolerated and any complaint alleging a violation of a citizen’s right should be investigated and, if appropriate, remedied.” He also continue to insist that putting American citizens’ rights up to a vote is the best way to deal with this issue, and suggested appointing an ombudsman to address problems with New Jersey’s civil union law.
You know, if he had just let the bill become law after 45 days without a signature, Garden Staters wouldn’t have a use for an ombudsman. Christie’s suggestion is pure nonsense. The mere fact that Christie thinks its a good idea to appoint an ombudsman for civil unions is prima facie evidence that civil unions aren’t equal to marriage.
But hey. At least he won’t have a Romney-style marriage problem when he runs for president in 2016. His career is still in the clear.
UPDATE: Garden State Equality’s Steven Goldstein reacted to Christie’s ombudsman proposal:
In vetoing the marriage equality bill, Governor Christie’s offer to create a civil union ombudsman is the very essence of the political theatre he decries.
How in the world would a civil union ombudsman enforce the civil union law for New Jersey couples who work in New York, a state that recognizes marriage equality – would New York State actually deputize a New Jersey civil union ombudsman to work within its own borders? How in the world would a civil union ombudsman deal with the children being raised by same-sex couples – children stigmatized at school by questions about the perceived inferiority of their families because of the second-class civil union label? How in the world would a civil union ombudsman deal with the assault on the dignity faced by civil union couples by hospitals and employers who understand the civil union law perfectly well – but sneer at the relationship of couples who aren’t married?
A civil union ombudsman might well be the country’s first-ever Enforcer of Discrimination – and worse. A civil union ombudsman is nothing more than the shameless dressing up of a veto of people’s dignity and equality – the equivalent of gold-plating a separate water fountain for a specific class of people.
In my opinion, Christie’s ombudsman idea is just as looney as his suggestion that we would have been better off if African-Americans’ civil rights had been put to a popular vote in the South during the 1960s.
Goldstein to Christie on impending veto
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.
What Did Christie Apologize For?
February 1st, 2012
Last week, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie really stepped in it when he announced that he would veto any legislation granting marriage equality that reaches his desk. The serious controversy arose when he added, about African-American’s civil rights, “The fact of the matter is, I think people would have been happy to have a referendum on civil rights rather than fighting and dying in the streets in the South.” Right. As if that would have worked out. As one of our commenters pointed out, when Alabamans had the opportunity to remove segregationist language from their state constitution, they rejected the idea. In 2004! The lunacy of Christie’s idea should be self-evident to anyone with a glancing familiarity with history.
Last night, Christie sought to put the controversy to bed during an appearance on talk radio with an apology that looks like this:
“Anybody who was offended by what I said, if you’re listening out there tonight, I apologize for that,” he said on New Jersey 101.5’s monthly radio call-in show. “I didn’t mean to offend anybody, and if I did I’m sorry.”
According to Politico, he explained:
“I also recognize that my job, one of my jobs as Governor, is to clearly communicate to people what I’m thinking, every time I open my mouth. And I try to be very good about being very direct about what I say so that there’s no ambiguity but obviously when I was talking last week at the town hall meeting about the civil rights movement in the South, I wasn’t clear enough. I just wasn’t.
“And what I did was, by saying those things, I left them open to misinterpretation and obviously there are some folks out there whose feelings I hurt or sensibilities I offended. And I apologize for that, because that’s my job. My job is to clearly communicate all the time. And so to those folks out there who were somehow offended or concerned about the ambiguity in my statement, I apologize for that because very clearly what I was trying to say, I said yesterday at the press conference about 5 or 6 times.”
I’ve read this several times, and for the life of me I can’t figure out what Christie’s actually apologizing for. Near as I can tell, he’s only apologizing if anyone who was offended. He apologized for being “misinterpreted” and for “sensibilities I offended.” It’s like he stomped on someone’s foot and apologized that they were hurt by it. What I don’t see is any sense that he recognizes the sheer folly of putting a reviled and stigmatized minority’s rights up for a vote and expecting that minority’s rights to be magnanimously granted. The history of that actually happening is sadly sparse, as sparse in the new millennium as it was in the last. I don’t see any recognition in Christie’s words that he understands that. It looks like, at most, he’s apologizing for opening his big mouth, but not for the beliefs that we now know he holds.
Harris’ recusal is the right decision
January 30th, 2012
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s appointment to the state supreme court, Bruce Harris, has promised to recuse himself from future judicial decisions on the subject of marriage equality for gay New Jersians. But, before some in our community object, this is the right and proper action for the appointee.
Harris is not recusing himself because he is gay. That, as has been determined by Federal Judge Ware, is as irrational as insisting that he not act on matters involving African Americans because he is black.
Rather, Harris is recusing himself because he has advocated for marriage equality, sending an email to his representatives in which he uses the example of his own life to seek to persuade them to support the cause. And it is a long-held tradition that advocates for causes pledge to recuse on those issues so that their evaluation is based on their fitness for office and not simply be a legislative effort to dictate judicial results.
And while Harris may not be part of the upcoming judicial evaluation as to whether civil unions have met the mandate for equality that the court laid out, his presence on the bench will undoubtedly not go without notice. It is one thing to say that civil unions are “good enough for them”; it is quite another to tell an associate that “civil unions are good enough for people like you.”
Harris’ email after the break
Christie: We Should Have Put African-American’s Civil Rights To A Vote
January 26th, 2012
In response to the outcry to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s call for a statewide referendum putting the marriage rights of same-sex couples up for a vote, Gov. Christie has doubled down against criticisms against putting the rights of minorities at the mercy of the majority:
“The fact of the matter is, I think people would have been happy to have a referendum on civil rights rather than fighting and dying in the streets in the South.”
This is the rest of the quote: “It was our political institutions that were holding things back. I don’t think there’s anything necessarily so special about this particular issue that it must be handled by a Legislature. Why would that be?…I don’t understand how anybody could argue with letting the people decide this issue.”
Does he really think that holding a referendum on civil rights in 1964 in Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, Florida, the Carolinas — or in Massachusetts or Michigan — would have put an end to official desegregation? Does he even think that Southern African-Americans themselves would have even been allowed to vote on this referendum? Does he honestly believe that the white citizens of Selma, Greensboro, Atlanta, Birmingham, Little Rock and Mobile would have voted to allow African-Americans to sit at their lunch counters or next to them in theaters, let alone work in their front offices and department stores? Is Christie completely unaware of the racial segregation that was legally enforced in his own state of New Jersey?
Actually, I’m beginning to think that he is fully aware of what such a referendum would have produced. He’s right in one sense: I’m sure there were a lot of people who would have been perfectly happy to hold a referendum on Black civil rights in 1964. And there would be many more people today who would be ashamed of how their parents and grandparents voted in Christie’s referendum.
Update: I love BTB readers. A commenter points out that Christie’s suggestion was already tried in California in 1964:
We did have a vote on civil rights, in California, in 1964. Prop. 14 would have put in the state constitution a provision that would void all local and state ordinances on racial discrimination in housing, and replace it with a property owner’s right to refuse to lease, sell or rent property on any basis.
The initiative passed by a 2-1 majority in Nov. 1964, even with a liberal Democratic ticket sweeping the state. It took the U.S. Supreme Court to void it.
So yeah, you don’t even have to guess at how Christie’s suggestion would work out.
NJ Gov Vows To Veto Marriage Equality Bill
January 24th, 2012
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie today said that he would veto any marriage quality bill reaching his desk. The bill, which passed the Senate Judiciary Committee today in an 8-4 vote, was identified as a top priority for state Democratic lawmakers. Christie instead urged lawmakers to pass a bill calling for a state referendum on marriage, saying “The institution of marriage if too serious to be treated like a political football.” Given that there are whispers that Christie is on the short list for the GOP vice presidential nomination, this is one issue he clearly wants to keep as far away from his desk as possible.
Christie also called for a strengthening legal protections under the state’s separate and unequal civil union law, specifically on questions of hospital visitation. Federal medicare regulations have already trumped state laws when it comes to visitation rights.
Congratulations, Bruce Harris
January 23rd, 2012
In November we reported that Chatham Borough, New Jersey has just elected Bruce Harris, making him the nation’s first African American gay Republican mayor. But the Star Ledger is reporting that Harris will soon be mayor no more. Governor Chris Christie is forcing him out of office… by appointing him to the state Supreme Court. Which will make him, I believe, the nation’s first African American gay Republican Supreme Court Justice.
This is kind of a big deal. I seem to recall a little issue that will soon be brought to that august body… something about civil unions not really providing the same level of equality as marriage. I don’t know Harris’ beliefs about marriage (and it would be inappropriate for us to know) but we can be certain that he does not go to the bench with a position of hostility towards our community.
And I appreciate the unique perspective and voice that Harris, as a racially minority gay man, may be able bring to the judicial process. Our opponents delight in pitting our communities against each other, and such tactics are likely to be less effective when there is someone on the bench who is part of both communities.
New Jersey and the Veep pick
January 17th, 2012
One of the Republican Party’s rising stars is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. So much so that in the introductory episode of her new show, Oprah Winfrey interviews Christie to ask why he has not yet run for President. And, as such, Christie’s name is always in the mix when the talking heads on Fox ponder who will be Mitt Romney’s running mate.
This possibility is something that should be remembered as we go into the legislative year. Democratic leadership in the State have introduced a marriage bill and have mostly asserted that the votes are present to win equality this year. And the ongoing assumption is that Christie would veto such a bill. But the governor has played an unexpected card by being coy about his response to such a bill, should it reach his desk.
This is not a politician known for his subtleties or lack of direct response, so this is remarkably uncharacteristic. And I wonder if his non-committal statement has any basis in a desire to be on the ticket.
At this point, I feel fairly confident in predicting that Mitt Romney will be the Republican nominee. And with the party in disarray, he will need to select a running mate who balances out the team and appeals to the “conservative base”. Further, he will have to announce this running mate fairly soon and not wait until the national convention at the end of August if he has any hope of building momentum in the “anyone but that Mormon” states.
Christie would be an interesting choice. While he does have a reputation as “a conservative”, on gay issues he is significantly more moderate than most prominent Republicans. He doesn’t “favor” marriage, but his opposition is expressed more in terms of what he does support (civil unions with all of the rights, benefits and obligations of marriage) than in terms of why gay people are a “threat” or how marriage should be “protected”.
But the open question is what such a Veep selection might mean to the marriage bill.
Would it be advantageous to position Christie as more supportive on equality issues than Romney in the same way that Cheney was to Bush? Or would a veto of the marriage bill fire up and energize the base? But would a veto and the public reaction reinforce the image of the Republican Party as homophobic and hostile to the will of the people – especially with young voters – and cost the party more than it could gain? Or is the issue too volatile to keep Christie in consideration?
These are all questions that Republican strategists will consider.
But there are also secondary scenarios to consider. One possibility is that Christie would accept the vice president run and would resign as governor so as to avoid his state administration from impacting his candidacy. While this is not a requirement of a seeker of higher office, a Democrat controlled legislature could create embarrassing situations designed to weaken his public image.
Stepping into his place would be Kim Guadagno, the state’s Lieutenant Governor. In 2009, Guadagno stated that she was in agreement with Christie:
Guadagno said she and Christie “agree on virtually every issue,” mentioning same-sex marriage, where they both want to maintain the current civil-union structure but do not want to extend the term “marriage” to gay couples.
But times change, polls change, positions change, and perhaps Guadagno is open to such change. She has been known to attend gay events and it is not unusual for Republican women to be supportive on marriage.
Another – albeit remote – possibility could be the temporary assumption of gubernatorial duties by Guadagno while Christie is out of the state. Although it would be an absurd notion that a Lieutenant Governor would sign a bill that was staunchly opposed by a Governor of the same party while he was temporarily away, it could be presented as such and political ‘reality’ has room for nonsensical assertions.
It still remains most likely that the legislature will pass the bill and that Governor Christie will promptly veto it as the choreography of this particular dance has been written, but we should keep our eyes open for other possibilities and argue our case should any chance – however peculiar – arise.
(* – an earlier version of this commentary included a pic that I “borrowed”. The source will remain unidentified other than their initials being RCC and that they are obnoxiously and arrogantly anti-equality. However, the pic was just two perfect – two identical wedding bands of the same size and when you looked at it you realized that they unintentionally were both for men. This replacement pic is compiled from a ring I saw on Gemvara.com. I have no idea who they are, but they use language that feels very inclusive (e.g. “two souls”, “your union”) and they had some items that were reasonably priced without looking cheap.)
Christie non-committal on equality bill
January 16th, 2012
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has been presumed to be opposed to the marriage bill being proposed by Democrats. In fact, I suspect that it is the presumption of his veto that is a selling point to some hesitating votes who might see a Christie veto as a win-win; they get to vote for it but it doesn’t really happen.
But the Star-Ledger is reporting that Christie is being non-committal about a veto.
When forced to make a decision, if forced to make a decision on it, I’ll make a decision.
This is an interesting response. It may well be a positioning in which the Governor can ask for specific religious exemptions or other provisions and thereby make the Democrats be the “difficult” ones. Or it may reflect his recognition of the popularity of equality in his state. And no little part of the equation is whether Christie will be considered as a Vice President nominee choice.
But whatever the motivation, when a Republican governor indicates the possibility of signing a marriage bill (or letting it become law without signature), you know that it’s a very different world than it was just a decade ago.
The new wedge issue – gay marriage
January 8th, 2012
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is a moderate Republican. His focus is mostly on fiscal issues and on social issues he does not seem to be directed by his religious affiliations.
However, like many moderate politicians of both parties, Christie believes that vocal support for civil unions is a safe position that will not draw too much ire from anyone.
To an extent he’s right. Our community is still appreciative of civil union support when it is sincere. But that is rapidly becoming inadequate. And it may soon be a position that a New Jersey politician may find untenable.
Christie has hinted that he would veto any marriage bill that crossed his desk. But that resolve will soon be put to the test. (ABC4)
Democrats in the New Jersey Legislature will reintroduce a gay marriage bill this week and have vowed to make same-sex unions a top priority two years after similar legislation was voted down.
Senate Bill 1 is being played up in a highly visible fashion. And while supporters likely do strongly wish to achieve equality in New Jersey, they even more strongly wish to establish a distinction between Democrats and Republicans.
Just as it was in 2004, gay marriage is again becoming a wedge issue. But this time it is opponents of equality who are embarrassed and defensive and trying to explain why their positions are inconsistent with will of the populace.
We see how anti-gay positions have destroyed a few campaigns already. And it is not Romney’s kinda-sorta gay tolerance that has become an albatross as right-wingers predicted, but Santorum’s views that have dogged his steps and defined his candidacy.
Now we will soon learn in New Jersey whether marriage equality has become so socially accepted that civil unions support is a position that can hurt a politician.
Christie on gays, sin, and civil unions
June 15th, 2011
I may have misjudged Chris Christie when he won the Republican nomination for Governor of New Jersey:
Christie is no friend of our community.
Statements he has now made to Piers Morgan suggest a man who is less antagonistic than I presumed.
While this is still a position that is a disappointment for New Jersey, where marriage seemed a likelihood a few years ago, I’m sure there are plenty of gay folk who would happily trade their governor for him.
What is interesting about this interview is that Christie felt no need to note that his view was “perhaps in disagreement with others in the party” nor did Morgan seem shocked by the “liberal” stance. And this bodes well for the future of our rights. While the current batch of clowns dancing around the calliope hoping to get the privilege of losing to Obama in 2012 are all dedicated to heterosexual supremacy, Christie’s position gives recognition – and permission – to the growing number of Republican politicians who are abandoning the rhetoric of sin.