It’s now in Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s hands whether equality will become the law of the land in the Garden State. The New Jersey Senate has done the right thing and moved a step closer towards recognizing the equality and human rights of all of New Jersey’s citizens by voting to legalize same sex marriage.
The vote came on February 13, 2012 as the New Jersey Senate passed the bill by a vote of 24-16. This vote comes after a similar bill legalizing same-sex marriage was defeated in the New Jersey Senate in January of 2010 by a vote of 20-14.
Regardless of the Senate’s good intentions, Republican Governor Chris Christie has already vowed to veto the bill when it reaches his office. Christie claims that he supports New Jersey’s Civil Union law which grants many of the same protections as marriage but does not grant the right to marriage to LBGT residents of the Garden State. Christie claims he doesn’t want to redefine marriage but instead would rather the issue be placed in the hands of the voters.
Placing public policy issues in the hands of the voters is a hallmark of American Democracy, however, there ARE times when the government must step in and do what is right despite the decision being an unpopular one. The provisions of the Civil Rights Act and racial integration come to mind when we ponder this. Does anyone think that integration would have ever occurred in Alabama or Mississippi if it were put to a vote in 1964? It took the federal government making an unpopular stand for basic human equality with the passing of the Civil Rights Act and the Brown vs. Board of Education decision nearly a decade earlier to bring about the proper change that was so sorely needed to bring about equality.
I am very pleased with the New Jersey Senate passing this bill and at the same time I am very disappointed with Governor Christie. The Republican governor has a chance to stand out from his Republican peers and stand in favor of so many of his constituents who have been denied equality for far too long.
Governor Christie, you must not realize that equality is a human right and that legal civil marriage does not mean churches will have to condone same-sex marriage nor does a civil union equal civil marriage. Furthermore you must realize that if it is a religious church wedding you are thinking of protecting, the LBGT community does not want to tell churches what to do but neither do they wish to be told what to do or be bullied by various churches. The establishment clause of the US Constitution prohibits you, as a government official, from choosing a religious tenant to codify or uphold as law.
In the end, same-sex marriage does not affect you or any of New Jersey’s heterosexual residents. The only people affected are the same-sex couples who are systematically discriminated against by a government that has chosen to ignore its own rules and establish religious doctrine into law. By vetoing this bill you will have chosen to deny equality to a large fraction of your constituents without a clear and constitutional reason for doing so. Governor Christie, I implore you to reconsider your vow to veto this bill and to stand up for what is right. You have been a well respected governor on both sides of the political aisle. I would hate to see that tarnished by seeing you take such a foolhardy stand on the wrong side of history and human equality.