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“Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife…”
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Posts for February, 2012

NJ Senate Panel Approves Marriage Equality Bill

Jim Burroway

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

Timothy Kincaid

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?

Jim Burroway

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

Timothy Kincaid

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

Timothy Kincaid

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

Read the rest of this entry »

Christie: We Should Have Put African-American’s Civil Rights To A Vote

Jim Burroway

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.”

Seriously? Seriously?

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.

QED.

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

Jim Burroway

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

Jim Burroway

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

Timothy Kincaid

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?

Timothy Kincaid

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.

New Jersey and the Veep pick

Timothy Kincaid

January 17th, 2012

rings *

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

Timothy Kincaid

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

Timothy Kincaid

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.

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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.

Gay, Pro-Gay Candidates Win Big

Jim Burroway

November 9th, 2011

Yesterday was a very good day for gay and -pro-gay candidates throughout the country. Here is a wrap-up. Please let me know what else is out there in the comments.

NOM Loses Big: Same-sex marriage remains secure in Iowa as Liz Mathis won big, 56-44%, over her NOM-backed opponent, Cindy Golding, in a special election for the Iowa state Senate. The National Organization for Marriage threw about $40,000 toward their failed attempt to elect Golding by making same-sex marriage an issue in the race. But soon after it was clear Golding lost, NOM’s cultural director Thomas Peters tweeted: “That’s what happens when a state GOP nominates a weak candidate.” Wow. Talk about your fair weather friends.

Virginia’s First: Adam Ebbin became the first openly gay state senator in Virginia after defeating his Republican challenger by a margin of 64-35%. His district, which is solidly Democratic, includes parts of Alexandria, Arlington, and Fairfax counties.

First Openly Gay, African-American Republican Mayor: At least that’s what we think happened when Bruce Harris was elected mayor of Chatham Borough, New Jersey.

Charlotte’s First: LaWana Mayfield became the first openly gay city council member as part of a Democratic landslide in North Carolina’s largest city. North Carolina, which will see a marriage amendment on the ballot next year, saw a number of other LGBT victories:

  • Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt won re-election with 78% of the vote.
  • Lee Storrow, a gay 22-year-old UNC grad won his race for a seat on the Chapel Hill city council.
  • Carrboro incumbent Alderwoman Lydia Lavelle was re-elected to another term for city council.

Cincinnati’s First: Chis Seelbach became the first openly gay city council member. He worked in 2004 to help defeat Article XII in the city charter which banned anti-discrimination ordinances for gay people.

Indianapolis’s First: Zach Adamson became the first openly gay city council member. S

Missoula’s First: Caitlin Copple became the first openly gay city council member. She defeated one of only two city council members who voted against the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance in 2010, which made Missoula the first city in Montana to provide discrimination protections in housing and employment regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Youngest Mayor: Alex Morse, 22, beat incumbent mayor Mary Pluta in Holyoke, Massachusetts, to become the nation’s youngest mayor.

Houston Re-elects: Mayor Annise Parker was re-elected with more than 50% of the vote, a margin which allows her to avoid a run-off. Mike Laster also became the first openly gay member of Houston’s city council.

Traverse City Supports Anti-Discrimination Ordinance: Voters in Traverse City, Michigan voted by a 2-to-1 margin to keep an anti-discrimination ordinance.  The vote came more than a year after Traverse City adopted the ordinance to prevent discrimination against gays in employment, housing and other areas. Opponents of the measure collected signatures to place a referendum for repeal on the ballot.

And on a final note, there were a number of gains in school board elections around the country which I didn’t cover, but I would like to point one out anyway: Daniel Hernandez, Jr., Rep. Gabrielle Gifford’s openly gay intern, was elected to as seat on the board of the Sunnyside Unified School District in Tuscon’s south side. Hernandez was one of the recognized heros during the January shooting at a Northwest side Safeway which killed  six and critically injured Rep. Giffords. And on a more personal note, I couldn’t be happier about the stunning news that Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce, architect of infamous anti-immigrant S.B. 1070 which was later found unconstitutional, was ousted by voters in favor of a political newcomer in Mesa.

GOP Pols Appear In “It Gets Better” Video

Jim Burroway

October 25th, 2011
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Last July when the entire Massachusetts congressional delegation — with the exception of lone Republican Sen. Scott Brown — released an “It Gets Better” video, Dan Savage noticed the conspicuous omission. “Not a single GOP elected official can bring himself or herself to make a video, or participate in the creation of one,” he wrote at the time. I thought that couldn’t be true, and I challenged our readers to find that GOP elected official. You couldn’t.

Now, happily, that is corrected. Ten our of the fifteen-members New Jersey congressional delegation, including three Republicans, have issued a video for the “It Gets Better” campaign. Zach Ford reminds us that the three Republicans, Reps. Leonard Lance, Frank LoBiondo, and Jon Runyan, are not pro-gay by any means — two of them voted against DADT repeal, all three support DOMA, and none have supported legislation that might actually make things better for gay people  — this nevertheless is clearly a step in the right direction, and the three Congressmen are to be commended for finally making the right move.

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