Since my favorite reality show, the Republican Debates, appears to be going on hiatus for a few weeks, I thought I would get back to blogging about Chris Christie.
As a gay citizen of New Jersey, I disagree with all of those who say the Governor has been masterful in his recent gay rights activities. He has appointed an openly gay Supreme Court Justice and he has called for a state wide referendum on gay marriage.
First, the Justice. Bruce A. Harris is black and gay, a double minority. And while I'm all for diversity on the court, I find this appointment disappointing. Harris has absolutely no judicial experience -- he is the former mayor of a conservative town, Chatham, and a lawyer from a conservative law firm, Greenberg Traurig. I have to believe that there are more experienced gay jurists in the State more worthy of being elevated to the Supreme Court than is Harris.
In other words, the fact that Harris is gay does not automatically mean that his appointment to the Supreme Court is a good thing for gay people. While a would welcome an experienced jurist who was not disqualified for being gay, I do not welcome an inexperienced jurist whose primary qualifications appear to be being gay and being black.
As for the call for a statewide referendum on gay marriage, this is clearly turning a civil right into a political football. First of all, it takes the issue out of the state legislature. Most conservatives have been calling for gay marriage to be decided by state legislatures and not by the courts. So why would Christie break from the conservative mainstream?
Because this year Senator Bob Menendez is running for re-election to the Senate and will probably win. There is no Republican candidate who can truly match Menendez' popularity. Republican State Senator Joe Kyrillos has said he will challenge Menendez, but no one thinks Kyrillos has a shot. Kyrillos has no name recognition outside of Trenton and is unlikely to motivate Republicans to come out to the polls.
But if a referendum on gay marriage is on the ballot, conservative voters will come out in droves. Conservative voters who will most likely vote Republican.
So Christie is not trying to try to find the most appropriate means by which to determine the question of gay marriage in New Jersey, he is using the issue of gay marriage to bring out the Kyrillos vote in the Senatorial campaign. Vintage Christie, yes; but appropriate treatment of civil rights for gay couples, no.
I'm happy to see that Christie's call for a Statewide referendum has met with some resistance. The Wall Street Journal reports that Christie said:
"People would have been happy to have a referendum on civil rights rather than fighting and dying in the streets of the South."
Georgia Representative George Lewis, who was beaten in the streets of the South during the civil rights movement, has traveled to Trenton to call the Governor out on the idiocy of his statement. Says Lewis:
"If put to a referendum, [civil rights laws] would never ever won. The action of Congress, executive orders of the President and the courts brought down those signs that said white man, colored man, white woman, colored woman. We had to march . . .we had to protest."
And even Christie pal Cory Booker chimed in by saying:
"I shudder to think what would have happened if civil rights issues for African-Americans were relegated to referendums in the 50 states."
So, to my thinking, the Governor has a tin ear on gay rights issues, and his ham-fisted efforts to appear open-minded have offended not only the gay community but the African-American community as well. Such ignorance of the history of the civil rights movement will surely dog the Governor as he attempts to seek national office.