New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is no shrinking violet. He’s a man who stands up boldly, bellows his opinions loudly and proudly, and smacks down his opponents with animated, smirking gusto.
That’s why his decision to veto the historic marriage equality bill passed this week is, pardon my
French New Jersey, absolute bullshit. It’s cowardly. It’s political. It’s very un-Christie.
A funny thing happened on the way to the number of states that allow same-sex marriage inching even closer to the number of states that allow you to marry your cousin. The N.J. Senate approved a marriage equality bill on Monday, finding the votes it needed after legislation failed two years ago. The N.J. Assembly on Thursday passed A-1 by a 42-33 count, which means the bill is law if Christie affixes his signature to it. Only the governor, admired by many progressives, acted on his promise of a “swift” veto.
Here’s Christie’s half-baked thought process on the veto: Any vote on same-sex marriage ultimately belongs to the residents of New Jersey, not the 120 lawmakers and the governor.
But passing such legislation is the very job of the state’s representatives. Using Christie’s ill logic, why stop at marriage equality — shouldn’t all laws derive from a popular vote then? If the New Jersey Legislature cannot be trusted to vote on this issue, what good are they? Why are they even living and voting in Trenton? And, the most important rhetorical question here, if ANY legislation should be in the hands of lawmakers and not the people, shouldn’t it be a law that explicitly protects the rights of a minority against the fickle will of the majority?
After all, we just saw this play out over the last three years in California. The people voted to overturn marriage equality, only for one appeals court to strike down the popular vote and a panel of another higher court to rule thusly: “We consider whether that amendment violates the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. We conclude that it does. … Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples.”
Interracial marriage and same-sex marriage aren’t exactly the same thing, but the former does offer a good parallel for Christie on the latter. When the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision in 1967’s Loving v. Virginia, which made it illegal to put race-based restrictions on marriage, nearly three of every four Americans disapproved of the mixing of the races. Forty-five years later, those numbers are reversed: Now 86 percent approve of interracial marriage. If every governor at the time left interracial marriage to the will of a popular vote, we’d still be waiting for some states to come around.
Christie, instead, proudly professes his ignorance: “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,” he said in late January. Because everyone would’ve enjoyed having their rights put to a vote.
The governor’s position is cold, calculated and bogus. There’s no Christie Straight Talk™ here. His entire decision-making process is wrapped up in a presidential run for 2016. Where’s the guy who called out the “crazies” in his own party that were shrieking about Sharia law becoming reality in the United States? Where’s that dude? Sure it’s a different issue, but it’s similar in the context that people on the wrong side of this issue are mired in myths. Has the sky fallen in New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington, D.C.? Is the sky about to fall in Washington state? No. It’s “crazy” to think otherwise. And it’s governors like Christie who should be leading the way on this, not banging the evangelical drum on the way to 2016 (and for his Romney surrogacy this year).
If Christie, who enjoys pointing out his love of empirical evidence, were looking at facts and not his own election prospects, he’d see why marriage equality matters. He’d see the positive message it sends to the future generations of Americans. He’d see what the idea of normalcy does for our youth. And if you’d like to see why equality matters, look no further than this statistic passed over to us by Calvin Stowell (@aurosan): “In 1991, the average coming-out age was 25,” Dr. Guy Shilo of TAU’s Bob Shapell School of Social Work reported. “But as of 2010, he notes, it is 16 years old — a dramatic shift.”
You know what kind of message equality sends? It means Christie’s future Republican cohorts might one day be comfortable enough with their sexuality that they won’t feel the need to anonymously press their pant legs on cold bathroom floors and “discreetly” cruise Craigslist at CPAC for shame-filled lovin’.
Governor Christie, you know better. Stop hiding behind the politics, behind the idea of a referendum. If your marriage were put to a popular vote, you’d yell so loud all the windows in Jersey would break.
Slade Sohmer is co-founder/editor-in-chief of HyperVocal.