It’s a cinch to understand why Chris Christie says no to gay marriage in New Jersey. If state lawmakers ever sent such a bill to his desk – which could happen very soon – and he were to bless it with his signature, his national ascent in the Republican party would be over. His vice-presidential prospects in 2012 would be dead. All speculative talk about 2016 would be terminated.
He would be toast. There’s no way a northeastern governor can woo the right-wing base after signing off on a bill that outlaws bigotry. He would forever be typecast, among gay-averse conservatives, as the Republican In Name Only who destroyed the institution of marriage.So it would appear that, for now at least, the incremental march toward equal rights is stalled in New Jersey, that there’s little chance the state will soon become the eighth in the nation to legalize gay marriage. Gay couples in the Garden State will have to put their lives on ice in deference to the big guy’s political ambitions.The New Jersey Senate passed a gay marriage bill yesterday for the first time – tallying 10 more votes than it did two years ago, including two Republicans and the chamber’s Democratic leader (who said yesterday that his ’10 abstention had been the biggest mistake of his political life) – and the state Assembly is expected to follow suit on Thursday. But there are insufficient votes at this time to override Christie’s promised veto.Christie has floated an idea designed to get him off the hook, suggesting instead that gay marriage be placed on the November ballot as a referendum; in his recent words, “I think this is not an issue that should rest solely in my hands, or the hands of the Senate President or the Speaker or the other 118 members of the legislature. Let’s let the people of New Jersey decide what is right for the state…I’m willing to trust the people.”Translation: If a gay marriage referendum passed in New Jersey (and a new state poll suggests that it would), Christie could essentially say to the Republican right, “Hey, folks, don’t blame me. I wholeheartedly agree with you that gay marriage is a dire threat to the republic, but that’s what the people wanted. It was out of my hands. Vote for me in the Iowa caucuses.”But New Jersey’s Democratic lawmakers are refusing to punt it to the voters – rightly so, because you don’t submit constitutional rights to a popularity contest. If the U.S. Supreme Court hadn’t ruled against racial segregation in the historic Brown v. Board of Education case of 1954, and the issue had instead been decided state by state via referendums, Jim Crow would likely have won big.But despite Christie’s vow to thwart the democratically-elected legislature, the gay marriage issue will resurface when the stars realign. Two-thirds of the lawmakers, in each chamber, are required to override a veto, but Christie’s nixing of gay marriage can be trumped at any time between now and January ’14, when the current legislative session expires. Lawmakers who vote No this week could later succumb to their consciences; or they could be swayed by the polls which will continue to show that gay marriage is the new centrism (especially in the northeast). Or Christie could take a job in Washington, thus liberating some of the moderate Trenton Republicans who have been afraid to defy him. In politics, you never know.But we do know one thing: Gay marriage is inevitable, especially in a state like New Jersey. It’s a few long miles down the road, but finally within sight. Chris Christie’s current political ambitions are nothing more than speed bump.——-As Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich ready themselves for yet another round of three-way mud wrestling – this time in preparation for the Michigan and Arizona primaries two weeks hence – let’s take a freeze frame of where things stand: Republican Division StandingsState contests, won and lost W L PCTSantorum 4 5 .444Romney 4 5 .444Gingrich 1 8 .111Paul 0 9 .000Do you know what they call a division where no team is above .500? Weak. ——-Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1