New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie this week said that African-American civil rights should have been voted upon, in lieu of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which outlawed racial discrimination and segregation and strengthened voting rights. Christie made these remarks as he insisted he would veto any legislation that came to his desk allowing same-sex marriage.
“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,” Christie said Tuesday, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer:
“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 dont understand how anybody could argue with letting the people decide this issue.”
“They’re trying to say the only way to deal with a civil rights issue is through legislation, and my point is that in a state like this, the fact of the matter is their own polling belies that position,” Christie said.
According to a Quinnipiac University poll, 52 percent of New Jersey voters support same-sex marriage. That’s why same-sex marriage advocates shouldn’t be “afraid” to put the matter on the November ballot, Christie said.
“Let’s stop hiding behind this ‘we don’t put civil rights on the ballot’ thing. Ya know, please. These folks would put anything on the ballot if they thought they could win,” he said.
Ironically, does this mean that Christie acknowledges that same-sex marriage is, in fact, a civil right?
Jim Burroway at Box Turtle Bulletin writes:
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.
Perhaps we should remind Governor Christie of founding father Thomas Jefferson’s famous quote from his First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801:
“…the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression.”
In fact, there are a great many great quotes from the founding fathers and from the likes of the great de Tocqueville, that Christie should remember, but the bottom line is simple: civil rights should never be subjected to a vote, and de Tocqueville’s “Tyranny of the Majority” is a powerful warning.
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