New Jersey Assembly Approves Conversion Therapy Ban
June 25th, 2013
Supporters of the bill, including the American Psychological and American Psychiatric associations, have called the practice damaging and demoralizing, while opponents have accused state lawmakers of interfering with the counselor-patient relationship and intruding on parents’ rights.
…The bill’s Assembly sponsor, Tim Eustace (D-Bergen) called the practice, “an insidious form of child abuse. The Assembly approved the bill, (A3371) by a 56-14 vote with seven abstentions.
The bill will now to to the Senate. Gov. Chris Christie (R) has not said whether he will sign the measure, although he has spoken out againztr conversion therapy generally.
NJ Assembly Committee Moves Conversion Therapy Ban
June 13th, 2013
The New Jersey Assembly’s Women and Children’s Committee voted to approve A3371, which would prohibit licensed therapists in the sate of New Jersey from providing therapies intended to change sexual orientation to minors. The 4-1 vote (with one abstention) occurred after two and a half hours of testimony by opponents and supporters, including Parsippany High School student Jacob Rudolph, who told the panel “I am not broken, I am not confused. I do not need to be fixed.”
“Our government has an obligation to protect children in our society – individuals who are unable to make their own legal decisions. Our government therefore has an obligation to prohibit the fraudulent and cruel practice of conversion therapy from being imposed on minors,” Rudolph said.
Jean Mercer, a developmental psychologist and retired Stockton College professor, said the only research that supports conversion therapy is “fraught with inaccuracies and omissions.”
“If conversions therapies had been shown to be necessary, safe and effective, discomfort associated with them might be acceptable, as we accept a certain amount of discomfort with medical treatments. Because they have not, we must consider whether in fact these treatments are abusive,” Mercer said.
Christopher Doyle a counselor at the California-based International Healing Foundation and a former homosexual, said the stories about this form of therapy forced on minors are distorted and untrue. He said he has been providing this therapy for four years, assisting as many as 150 clients with “unwanted same sex attractions who come to me wanting to change.”
The International Healing Foundation is run by ex-gay gadfly Richard Cohen, who was permanently expelled from the American Counseling Association in 2002 for multiple ethical violations. He has been criticized for his unorthodox holding technique for “curing” gay people.
The bill now goes to the floor of the Assembly and the Senate.
Marriage update – North America
January 25th, 2013
It’s getting marriagey all over the place. And it’s also getting hard to keep track of what is going on where. So here is an update to help (which will probably be outdated by the time I hit “publish”).
Canada - Marriage has been equal since 2005.
Mexico - Marriage is equal in Mexico City, and marriages conducted there are recognize throughout the nation. However, in December, the Supreme Court unanimously found that an anti-gay marriage law in Oaxaca was unconstitutional. Due to Mexico’s complicated legal system, this means that marriages are highly likely to eventually be legal throughout the nation, but the process requires that five same-sex couples in each state file an amparo (civil rights claim) and that the court issue the same ruling on each. It may take some time for the legality of the state by state process to catch up, but the reality is that any Mexican couple wishing to marry probably can, either immediately or through petition.
United States - Several locales provide or have provided marriage equally:
- Massachusetts –
- California – 2008, but rescinded that year
- Connecticut – 2008
- Vermont – 2009
- Iowa – 2009
- New Hampshire – 2010
- The District of Columbia – 2010
- New York – 2011
- Washington – 2012
- Maryland – 2012
- Maine – 2013
In addition, two Native American tribes, the Coquille in Oregon and the Suquamish in Washington provide marriage equally to their members.
Current and upcoming movement on the marriage front includes:
* DOMA3 – several federal courts have found the federal prohibition on recognition of legally married same-sex couples – the Defense of Marriage Act, Section 3 – to be unconstitutional on several grounds. The Supreme Court of the United States has agreed to hear one case, Windsor v. the United States, a case in which Edie Windsor was assessed in excess of $300,000 in inheritance tax from her wife’s estate, a tax that does not apply to heterosexuals. On Tuesday, the special counsel for the House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (at the direction of House Speaker John Boehner) filed its arguments in defense of the law (I’ll try to get an analysis up soon). It argued that BLAG has standing to support the law, that only rational basis should apply to anti-gay discrimination, that the nation needs uniform recognition, and that states should be allowed to decline to offer equality if they so choose (thus, I assume, vetoing other states in the name of uniformity). Today Professor Victoria C. Jackson will, at the court’s request, filing a brief insisting that BLAG has no standing and on February 26th, Windsor’s team will present arguments as to why she should not be discriminated against. Oral arguments before SCOTUS will be on March 27th, and the Court will likely release it’s ruling in June. Whichever way it goes, it will probably only impact couples in states which allow marriage.
* Proposition 8 - this is the highest profile case, but it could end up having the least legal effect. In 2008, the California Supreme Court found the state’s law prohibiting same-sex marriage to be a violation of the state’s constitution. For several months, same-sex couples could legally marry, but in November the voters approved Proposition 8 by 52%, ending marriage equality in the Golden State. In May 2009, Ted Olson, one of the most prominent Republican attorneys and David Boies, one of the most prominent Democratic attorneys, teamed up to fight for the legal overturn of that proposition. In January 2010, though cameras were banned from the courtroom, the nation was captivated by the reporting about the case – a trial not only on the legality of the proposition but also on its merits. Federal Judge Vaughn Walker eventually found the proposition to violate the US Constitution on broad grounds. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the decision, but on much narrower grounds: that a state cannot provide a right to all citizens and then take it away from a select few. Last month the Supreme Court agreed to hear the appeal, but added the question as to whether the proponents defending the law (the Governor and Attorney General declined to do so) have standing. On Tuesday the proponents of the law filed their brief (I’ll try to get an analysis up soon). Olson and Boies have until February 21st to respond, and oral arguments will be on March 26th with a likely result in June. While the Court could find that the US Constitution guarantees marriage equality across the land, it could also choose to narrow its ruling to the unique issues of the case and only impact Californians.
* Rhode Island - on Tuesday, the House Judiciary Committee unanimously approved the marriage bill. The full House voted in favor today 51-19. However, the Senate is less certain. Although Rhode Island is virtually a single-party state (the Senate has 32 Democrats, 5 Republicans, and 1 Independent), the Senate President, Teresa Paiva-Weed, is an opponent to equality. She has said that she will allow a committee to hear the matter, but in times past she has made certain that committees were selected to prevent equality.
I have started a petition at Change.org to request that should Paiva-Weed obstruct or block the passage of this bill, that Rhode Island State Senators remove her from power. Please go sign this petition.
* Illinois - a marriage bill was submitted during the first week of the year in a lame-duck session. Due to difficulty in corralling members returning from holiday, the vote never took place.
After the new legislature was is session, the bill was reintroduced. Currently the status is a bit in limbo as the bill is yet to be sent to committee.
However, that does not mean that there is no excitement, just that it’s happening outside the legislature and in an unexpected arena. The GOP chairman has come out in favor of marriage, which has angered social conservatives in the state. Bit though they are demanding his resignation and threatening ouster, the party insiders are lining up behind the chairman. At the moment it seem like the prevailing position may end up, “we may not support equality, but we support those who do.” In any case, this latest public squabble serves our community well.
* Minnesota - fresh off a victory in turning back an anti-marriage bill in November, Minnesotans for All Families is fighting on and will present a marriage bill to the legislature next month. The political strategist who generaled the battle is staying on to finish the war.
Polls are breaking even in the state and the DFL (Democratic) party has a slim lead in each house, so they will have their work cut out for them. But I would be surprised if the state did not take some movement towards couple recognition.
* Colorado - supporters filed an everything-but-the-name Civil Unions bill which is pretty much guaranteed to pass. More than half of each house has signed on as sponsors. This is as far as that state can go at present, as there is a state constitutional ban on equality.
* Wyoming - out of pretty much nowhere and flying way below the radar, lesbian Sen. Cathy Connolly has file both a domestic partnership bill and a marriage bill. Both have significant Republican support.
They may not be attracting much buzz on these bills due to party power; Republicans dominate both houses by overwhelming numbers. But Wyoming Republicans are traditionally pretty libertarian in their thinking and local papers are mostly quoting the bills’ Republican cosponsors. It may be early yet, but so far there doesn’t appear to be any visible organized opposition. I would not be altogether shocked if one of the bills passed or, at least, got a decent vote.
* New Jersey - the legislature of this state has already passed a marriage bill which was vetoed by the governor. However there are the paths to equality that might be achievable.
One is to take it to the people. But though a supporter brought such a bill, it was quickly dismissed due to the inherent insult of voting on a minority’s civil rights. (Personally, I’d rather win at the polls that fight over whether its an insult to do so.)
The second path, the one favored by equality leaders in the state, is to continue building support one by one until we have the numbers to override a veto. That would require substantial Republican support and this would be held off until after the next primary to minimize conservative backlash.
The third possibility doesn’t appear likely, but it shouldn’t be written off. Governor Chris Christie is a politician, and politicians are susceptible to evolution.
Christie made his mark in the Republican Party by being hard nose on fiscal issues but being more progressive on social issues. He was the poster boy for supporting civil unions, a position that made him seem ahead of the curve. As the Party moves away from anti-gay hostility, he may find it necessary to move as well. It’s not a bet I’d take, but it’s not outside the realm if possible for the Governor to hold to his views but still find some way to allow marriage to become law.
* Hawaii - I’ve no idea why marriage hasn’t already become law.
I think it can be hardest sometimes in states in which one party dominates. In mega-red states, we have little hope (though i just made a case for Wyoming). But in all-blue states, its not always much better. There’s no reason for Democrats to show the voters the difference between them and Republicans, so they fell less pressure to live up to their potential.
I’m sure I’ve missed some state in there. And, of course, you have to always expect that something completely unexpected will happen.
Tomorrow I’ll try to provide an update for Europe and South America.
Yesterday, a state representative in Hawaii filed a bill for marriage equality. She had no cosponsors. Also yesterday, 15 representatives filed a bill calling for a constitutional amendment banning equality. It was also introduced in the senate. Additionally, a state senator filed a pair of ‘take it to the people’ bills which would have voters choose to either allow or ban marriage in the constitution (he’s an opponent of equality). All in all, it looks dire for marriage in Hawaii.
What they said…
June 25th, 2012
They said that if Don’t Ask – Don’t Tell was repealed that homosexuals would cause chaos for the Military and – if allowed to have their relationships recognized on base – would make a mockery of marriage in a holy space. (Army Times)
“We are so honored to be a part of this historic moment to be one of the first gay couples allowed to unite in a civil union on a military base,” the couple said in a statement after the ceremony.
“We hope to be an inspiration to others in the LGBT community that struggle with the challenge of marriage equality. And that this issue is not just about the military, but the equal sacrifice and shared burdens of our loved ones who are civilians.”
They said that chaplains were horrified and feared being pressured into performing marriages against their will.
It was presided over by Kay Reeb, a Navy chaplain with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, who also serves at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.
Reeb, who had never presided over a civil union ceremony before, said she was delighted to take part.
“I told them the same thing I tell every couple — love each other and trust in each other and in God, that’s what keeps us together,” he said.
They said that if allowed to serve openly, everyone would suffer: the heterosexuals who would be made uncomfortable and have their deep religious beliefs offended and the homosexuals who be subjected to abuse.
Air Force Capt. Ryan Quinn, who also attended the event, said he was “amazed by the beauty” of the ceremony.
“I really do think this is an important event. And I was happy to be here with them and their families,” he said. “The amount of support I’ve seen for them from the people (at the base) and the military community makes me proud to serve in the Air Force.”
Somehow, I think the changes we see for the better are due at least in part by people listening – and weighing – what they said.
NJ Dems nix gay black Supreme Court nominee
May 31st, 2012
According to the Washington Post, Bruce Harris was rejected by the New Jersey Senate Judiciary Committee:
Democrats who control the Senate Judiciary Committee questioned Harris’ lack of courtroom experience and vow to recuse himself from deciding gay marriage cases.
Harris says his prior support of gay marriage creates a perception that he would be biased on the issue.
The 61-year-old would have been the state’s third black justice and the court’s first openly gay jurist.
This is disappointing.
But while sad, it’s also an odd illustration of how politics works. In a display of partisanship, it was the Democrats who voted against – and the Republicans who voted for – the gay, black, marriage equality activist. In a weird way I guess that can be viewed as progress.
Star-Ledger’s opinion about NOM
April 2nd, 2012
New Jersey’s biggest newspaper (by far) has released an editorial on the National Organization for Marriage:
It is sick beyond words that a group to “save” marriage would exploit racial and ethnic divisions, stir intolerance and fear, and even rip families apart by pitting children against parents. In their self-described “battle,” they come across as the biggest losers of all.
Its not looking like a happy week at the NOM office and today is only Monday.
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.
NJ House Passes Marriage Equality
February 16th, 2012
The vote was 42-33, and the bill now goes to Gov. Chris Christie’s desk where he promises to veto it. No Republicans voted for the bill, while four Democrats voted against. The Assembly vote was 12 votes shy of the 54 needed to override the veto. Monday’s bipartisan 24-16 Senate vote approving the measure is just three votes shy of the override bar. Senate President Stephen Sweeny called on Christie to sign the bill:
“Marriage equality will happen in New Jersey,” Sweeney said in a statement. “The only question that remains is whether Governor Christie will be on the right or wrong side of history.”
Assuming Christie follows through on his veto promise, marriage supports will have until the end of the legislative session in January 2014 to build support to override the veto.
New Jersey Senate passes marriage bill
February 13th, 2012
The New Jersey State Senate has, as expected, passed the marriage equality bill. The vote was 24 – 16, shy of the 27 needed to override a veto. Globe:
Two Democrats and two Republicans went against their party lines in the vote. Sen. Jennifer Beck, a Republican from Red Bank, voted for allowing gay marriage. “It is my opinion that our republic was established to guarantee liberty to all people,” she said. “It is our role to protect all of the people who live in our state.”
NJ Senate Panel Approves Marriage Equality Bill
February 2nd, 2012
The New Jersey Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill providing marriage equality on a 5-2 party line vote. According to the Star-Ledger, there was a bit of drama during the hearing:
Later, the meeting turned raucous when a minister took the position that homosexuality is a choice and people can turn away from the lifestyle, saying she had data showing there are “more ex-gays than gays.”
That drew jeers from the audience. Cherry Hill resident Jay Lassiter, who had testified earlier, jumped to his feet and yelled, “No, I’m not going to let you talk like that!” Statehouse security staffers along with a state trooper quickly moved in and brought order. Lassiter remained at the hearing.
The bill is scheduled to go before the full Senate on February 13. Republican Gov. Chris Christie has promised to veto the bill if it reaches his desk.
Christie to Republicans: put marriage on the ballot, the people will vote for it
February 2nd, 2012
Sometimes I am tempted to think that the prominent Republicans in this country just wish that marriage equality was already the law so that they didn’t have to talk about it or make promises to “the base”. Last year, New York Senate Majority Leader Skelos (who could have single handedly stopped the bill) put the question to the Senate after enough Republican votes were secured so that he could vote no while the bill passed. Today New Hampshire Republicans tell us that they are far too busy on fiscal matters for their supermajorities in each house to even consider repeal this year.
And now New Jersey Governor Christie has this to say about his new decision to direct Republican lawmakers to support a bill that would create a November referendum: (Bloomberg)
“The polls that I’ve seen show that if this goes to the ballot, I lose. How much more magnanimous could I be?”
There’s a whole pile of ways that can be interpreted and we can only guess as to what it means. While I think he bets on the polls being wrong, my best guess is that what he really wants to say is, “Stop asking me about that. I don’t care. Really, I couldn’t care in the slightest.”
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.
Prior NJ Governors weigh in
January 31st, 2012
All of the living prior governors of New Jersey have weighed in on whether the state should offer marriage licenses to couples irrespective of the gender of the participants.
Brendan Byrne – Democrat (1974-1982) – supports marriage equality
Thomas Kean – Republican (1982-1990) – supports marriage equality
James Florio – Democrat (1990-1994) – supports marriage equality
Christine Todd Whitman – Republican (1994-2001) – believes state should not define marriage but should issue the same legal document to all couples
Donald DiFrancesco – Republican (2001-2002) – supports marriage equality
Jim McGreevey – Democrat (2002-2004) – supports marriage equality
Richard Codey – Democrat (2004-2006) – supports marriage equality
Jon Corzine – Democrat (2006-2010) – supports marriage equality
Christie kinda stands out, doesn’t he?
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.
Newark Mayer Blasts Gov. Christie for Suggesting Marriage Referendum
January 25th, 2012
Newark Mayor Cory Booker denounced New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie over the governor’s vow to veto marriage equality legislation and his call for a statewide referendum on marriage equality. Booker, who has refused to perform marriages in city hall since 2009 in protest over the state’s inequality in marriage law, blasted the governor for suggesting that a minority’s rights should be put up for a vote.
“I shudder to think what would have happened if the civil rights gains, heroically established by courageous lawmakers in the 1960s, were instead conveniently left up to popular votes in our 50 states. … Equal protection under the law – for race, religion, gender or sexual orientation – should not be subject to the most popular sentiments of the day. Marriage equality is not a choice. It is a legal right. I hope our leaders in Trenton will affirm and defend it.”
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.
Veto-proof support for marriage in New Jersey?
January 19th, 2012
The Wall Street Journal is suggesting that there may be enough favorable votes for equality in New Jersey that any veto of the marriage bill by Governor Chris Christie can be overturned. Of course, this is all based on vote counting, a process that is subject to assumptions and promises rather than actual votes.
And Christie continues to be less than fully specific on what his response will be. When asked whether he would trade support on a tax reduction for support for the marriage bill, Christie said (WNYC beginning at 6:21):
My opposition to same-sex marriage has been very well publicized over time. Now, they haven’t been able to get a same sex marriage bill passed. And I think that this type of societal change is something that we need to do very deliberately and have as much public input as we possible can before people decide whether we want to overturn hundreds of years of societal [mo...?] relationship issues.
But we will know soon enough. The first test of the bill comes next Tuesday when the Senate Judiciary hears debate and votes on the bill.