This is commentary from political blogger and cartoonist Rob Tornoe.
Today, New Jerseyans will look across the Delaware River and see their gay brothers and sisters in the tiny state of Delaware getting married. The people wanted it, the legislature voted for it and Gov. Jack Markell signed it into law. A responsive government at work. In New Jersey, the only response gay marriage advocates have received is a shrug of the shoulder from Gov. Chris Christie, who cares more about impressing big money donors with a backwards view on equality than acting on the will of the individuals he was elected to represent.
Over 60 percent of New Jerseyans want gay marriage, and both the Assembly and state Senate passed a law legalizing it. The only thing standing between same-sex couples in New Jersey and equal rights is Christie’s veto, which he’s been unwilling to relinquish following the U.S.Supreme Court’s landmark ruling on gay rights.
You see, Christie, a Republican, has done enough to anger members of his own party. Merely shaking hands with Obama got former Florida Governor Charlie Crist ex-communicated from the party, so Christie’s full-on bromance with the president in the wake of Hurricane Sandy could really hurt him among the backwards ideologues he’s hoping to woo in Iowa and South Carolina.
Despite living in the “real America” and touting more pro-American “traditional values” hoopla than any sane person can stomach, conservatives don’t want a leader promoting fairness and understanding. They want Russian President Vladimir Putin. Over the weekend, Putin signed legislation that not only stigmatizes gay people, it prohibits even the discussion of homosexuality and criminalizes gay pride rallies. This coming from a man who just two months ago said “there is no infringement on the rights of sexual minorities” in Russia.
Christie’s said similar things about New Jersey’s civil union law, noting that he is “in favor of making sure that homosexual couples have the same type of legal rights that… that heterosexual couples have.” Unfortunately, under the state’s civil rights law, they don’t.
Take veterans, another group hard-conservatives like to deify. The Supreme Court’s ruling means that for the first time, same-sex spouses of active-duty military personnel will be able to qualify for the same benefits straight couples have long enjoyed. But according to Veterans Affair policy, a vet seeking same-sex benefits has to live in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage. So thanks to Christie, and Christie alone, New Jersey veterans will be discriminated against purely based on their sexual orientation.
The worst part is despite his demonstrated record of cynical political decisions, Christie is still able to maintain the moderate “tell-it-like-it-is” fake Jersey caricature he’s been able to develop with a vacuous national media more interested in catchy sound bites than objective policy.
Take Christie’s response to Hurricane Sandy and his defense of a Muslim judge out of the equation, and you have the record of a conservative, self-serving governor eyeing the next rung up the political latter. Chrisie, who everyone wants to tout as a “moderate,” vetoed funding for Planned Parenthood, equal pay for women and Medicaid expansion under Obamacare. He also killed funding for a much-needed tunnel project, took New Jersey out of a regional cap-and-trade agreement, killed the state’s version of the DREAM Act and basically been a spokesperson for the privatization of public schools. Sound like a moderate to you?
The good news is despite the cynical politics of Christie, the groundswell of support for marriage equality in the Garden State won’t be turned back. Gay marriage will become the law soon, either as the result of a lawsuit or through a referendum for a constitutional amendment.
Reminds me of an old Russian slogan that we can now apply to gay rights: Догнать и перегнать Америку! (Catch up and overtake America!)
Rob Tornoe is a political cartoonist and a WHYY contributor. See more of his work at RobTornoe.com, and follow him on twitter @RobTornoe.