Chris Christie’s Gay Rights Gamble
There are multiple reasons why social conservatives have never quite warmed to Chris Christie. On Monday, Oct. 21, he gave them another.
After vowing to challenge the September ruling by a New Jersey judge legalizing same-sex marriage in the Garden State, a spokesman for the Republican governor announced Monday morning, Oct. 21, that Christie had asked the state’s attorney general to abandon that fight, effectively making New Jersey the 14th state, plus D.C., to embrace marriage equality.
The announcement came hours after same-sex nuptials began in city halls across the state following a unanimous decision by the New Jersey Supreme Court on Friday, Oct. 18, denying a stay requested by the Christie administration to put on hold the lower court’s ruling while the case was appealed. Although not a final ruling in the case, which was expected to hear oral arguments early next year, many looked to the 7-0 decision denying the stay as a preview of how the New Jersey Supreme Court could rule when it reached the merits of the case. The Christie administration appeared to agree, stating, in essence, that they believed the battle had already been lost.
"Chief Justice Stuart Rabner left no ambiguity about the unanimous court’s view on the ultimate decision in this matter when he wrote, ’Same-sex couples who cannot marry are not treated equally under the law today,’" a Christie spokesman said.
Christie has long been outspoken about his personal opposition to same-sex marriage. At a gubernatorial debate this month, Christie said if one of his four children came out as gay he would "grab them and hug them and tell them I love them," but also reiterate his belief marriage is between a man and a woman.
Six years after New Jersey began permitting civil unions for same-sex couples, the state Legislature approved marriage-equality in February 2012, only for Christie to veto the bill under the argument that the issue should be left to voters at the ballot box. In the statement released Monday, Christie’s spokesman painted his decision as a pragmatic one.
"Although the Governor strongly disagrees with the Court substituting its judgment for the constitutional process of the elected branches or a vote of the people, the Court has now spoken clearly as to their view of the New Jersey Constitution and, therefore, same-sex marriage is the law," he said. "The Governor will do his constitutional duty and ensure his Administration enforces the law as dictated by the New Jersey Supreme Court."
It’s that kind of pragmatism that has made Christie an incredibly popular Republican governor in a blue state, and that will undoubtedly come to define his national identity when he likely runs for president in 2016. But while advocates hailed Christie’s decision, with Log Cabin Republicans stating he did the "right thing," those on the far right of his own party saw their worst suspicions of the Northeastern governor realized.
Accusing Christie of "throwing in the towel on marriage," National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown said Christie had failed the test of a true leader "to walk a principled walk no matter the difficulty of the path."
"Regrettably, Governor Christie’s decision to surrender on marriage reveals him to be a man who lacks the courage of his supposed convictions," Brown said in a statement. "As far as we are concerned, it’s a disqualifying failure. His surrender on marriage effectively surrenders any chance he might have had to secure the GOP nomination for president."