New Jersey Governor Chris Christie‘s marriage equality veto today will go down in history for standing in the doorway to progress by obstructing love between same-sex partners. Christie lacks empathy, compassion and certainly vision. Write it down in your book. He will be viewed like segregationist Alabama Governor George Wallace who in the 1960′s defined his shameful persona as a segregationist during a similarly ugly age in America–Christie will ultimately be viewed as a bully and obstructionist in his refusal to expand the circle of dignity to LGBT persons who have been historically marginalized within American society.
Chris Christie’s same-sex civil marriage veto reveals him to be small in mind and certainly, small in virtual stature. Amazingly fitting words to describe the Christie veto were written by Ralph Waldo Emerson long ago who once said, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.” If the shoe fits, Chris Christie wears big ones today.
His veto also demonstrates a colossal misreading of the fact that a majority of Americans now support marriage equality. Christie’s propensity to persist in opposition to advancing gay rights is a miscalculation that will increasingly marginalize an already badly damaged Republican Party brand that has put itself on the “Road to Serfdom” during an election year by opposing tax cuts for the middle class and has all but officially launched an undeclared war on women’s health and heavy handed efforts to deny their access to birth control and safe, legal, abortions.
According to Columbia University political scientists Justin Phillips and Jeffrey Lax, as recently as 2004 same-sex marriage did not have majority support in any state. By 2008, three states had crossed the 50 percent line. Maine revoked marriage equality in 2009 by ballot initiative, but will revisit the issue with another voter opportunity to revoke its ban on gay marriage with opinion polling that is quite dynamic. but arguably trending into the support column. New York State and New Jersey had moved into a majority of voters supporting marriage equality in 2010. Consequently, New York State passed marriage equality in June 2011, Washington State moved into a majority of support in 2010 t00 and made gay marriage legal last week, while New Jersey adopted marriage equality this week, despite Christie’s veto threat. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional in early February. At this very moment, Maryland State’s General Assembly is debating marriage equality and according to legislative authorities, Maryland is likely to embrace pro-marriage equality this evening.
There seems to be a strong trend developing here and there are solid reasons for these rapid advancements in LGBT civil rights.
A cautionary tale to all elected officials who oppose LGBT rights: In the Phillips and Lax 2009 Gay Rights in the States: Opinion and Policy Responsiveness they assert an evident trend of growing support nationally that has emerged, but not because of overwhelming majorities found in more liberal states that could skew the national picture. Their research shows that a majority of young people in almost every state support gay marriage. In other words, as new voters come of age, and as their older counterparts exit the voting pool, it’s likely that support will increase, pushing more states over the halfway mark.
For me, Christie’s veto reminds me of Wallace’s historic “Stand in the Schoolhouse Door,” (image, top,) which took place at the University of Alabama on June 11, 1963. George Wallace stood in the school house door by supporting “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever” and stopping the desegregation of schools, stood at the door of the auditorium to try to block the entry of two black students, Vivian Malone Jones and James Hood.
Chris Christie may have slowed down the march to marriage equality by casting his veto today, nonetheless, the tide of history has now shifted dramatically toward the embrace of LGBT rights in just a few years. And Christie has another problem too–under the aegis of Garden State Equality and its allies, the New Jersey legislature could potentially override his veto and has two years to put together a strategy that could yet compel him to yield to the forces of equality. Meanwhile, Christie is confronted with a legal action before the state supreme court that has been filed by seven same sex couples and their children who claim harm under the state civil union system. It is now only a matter of time and even a bigot like Chris Christie will eventually succumb to a rolling tide of justice. Just wait and see.
Tanya L. Domi is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University who teaches about human rights in Eurasia and is a Harriman Institute affiliated faculty member. Prior to teaching at Columbia, Domi worked internationally for more than a decade on issues related to democratic transitional development, including political and media development, human rights, gender issues, sex trafficking, and media freedom.
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