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Gay Marriage Initiatives in New Jersey, Research Paper Example

Pages: 4

Words: 1124

Research Paper

Introduction

In a remarkable instance of how one elected official may radically impede a state’s inevitable progress, Governor Christie of New Jersey is blocking that state’s trajectory and role as a defender of constitutional liberties, as well as impairing its image to the rest of the nation.  Christie persistently refuses to sanction legalized gay marriage, and the most striking aspect of this stance is its seeming obliviousness to the desires of the people of New Jersey.  Moreover, as noted, this position severely harms the standing of the state; New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the District of Columbia permit legal gay marriage, and New Jersey’s absence from this Eastern roster of progressive state response to public demand is increasingly conspicuous.  It very much appears that legalized gay marriage is a national tide, and Christie would do well to consider all the implications of his continued resistance to it, the foremost of which is the denial of essential rights to his state’s citizens.  In finally legalizing gay marriage, New Jersey will both reinforce its status as a protector of individual liberties, and take a leading role in what must be an eventual reversing of federal policy.

Argument

As the situation exists today,  gay couples in New Jersey may apply for a civil union license, which provides a significant number of the benefits afforded to married couples under state law.  As other states have noted and addressed, however, the principle problem with this type of provision is that federal benefits are not included, and even this legal status may not transfer to other states (Knox, Schacht, 257).   As gay marriage support organizations have consistently pointed out, civil unions cannot begin to provide the benefits, tacit and directly given, that legal marriage confers.  What was once seen as a great victory for gay rights has been exposed, in fact, as a demeaning, halfway measure.  In the words of New Jersey gay marriage advocate Steven Goldstein, it is:  “The equivalent of gold-plating a separate water fountain for a specific class of people” (Spoto).  As was demonstrated by the civil rights movements of the 1950s and 1960s, such provisions are ultimately unacceptable, as equal status is not a concept that may be meted out by degree.

Governor Christie, reflecting traditional Republican ideologies, continues to oppose legal gay marriage in the state.  What sets Christie apart is not necessarily his political stance on the issue, but the fact that he overtly presents his own views on marriage, which invariably go to marriage as being strictly defined as a heterosexual union.  This is, however, likely to change, simply because high-level politicians typically must abide by the wishes of their constituencies, and New Jersey is evincing a stronger support of gay marriage.  This has been reinforced by Christie’s recent veto of the legislation allowing New Jersey gay marriage; days after the Governor denied approval of the law, new polls revealed that 57 percent of registered voters are in favor of the legislation (Young).  Then, the Governor is increasingly the subject of scrutiny in regard to an agenda based on more personal interests, rather than the welfare of New Jersey.  It is alleged that the Governor is merely seeking to accommodate his own, political future, “Because the 2016 South Carolina Republican Presidential primary electorate is anti-gay” (Spoto).

The timing of all of this is particularly interesting.  It appears that, while  Christie is adamantly resisting the tides of opinion in his own state, he is ignoring court activity enhancing support of gay marriage.  As Christie was readying his veto prerogative and reaffirming his commitment to civil union status, N.J. Superior Court Judge Linda Feinberg was moving in a very different direction.  In 2011, attorneys acting for the Garden State Equality organization, which boasts more than 82,000 members, filed a four-count complaint claiming that New Jersey’s civil union licensing denies couples equal protections as guaranteed by the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.  Judge Feinberg is allowing the suit, and a trial is expected by next year (Jordan).  It is likely that similar suits in other states will combine to present a challenge the federal government must finally address.

Ultimately, and no matter his motivations, Christie’s position on the issue is seemingly riddled with contradictions, as well as based on an inapplicable approach to the subject of gay marriage long dismissed by those states who have enabled it.  More exactly, Christie consistently holds to the argument that there is no constitutional right to same-sex marriage, a point of view that ignores the unconstitutionality of the view itself.  That a right is not implicitly granted in the wording of the Constitution by no means translates to that right as being justifiably denied to citizens.  By way of extreme example, the Constitution does not spell out that all Americans have the right to relocate to another state, simply because such a right is inherently understood.  Then, and in a way equally setting aside profound realities, Christie holds that civil unions provide the same degree of legal protections to gay couples as does marriage.  He has gone so far, in fact, as to present his feelings on this as proof of his commitment to equality, stating that, “Gay couples in New Jersey have all the rights and benefits of married couples through civil unions” (Spoto).   This position reveals either a striking lack of knowledge or an insistence on carrying on a pretense no longer remotely viable, and it is only a matter of time before Christie, or his successor, bows to the weight of New Jersey opinion and signs gay marriage into law.

Conclusion

A governor wields immense power, and this is a reality greatly evident in Governor Christie’s refusal to sanction gay marriage in New Jersey.  Legally empowered to veto this legislation clearly expressive of the public will, he insists on a combination of traditional, religiously-inspired dogma and an outright ignoring of the limitations of civil unions.  However, everything occurring within New Jersey, as well as nationally, indicates that this is not a resistance that can long survive.  If Christie, for whatever reason, chooses to dismiss the reality, it is inevitable that his successor will accept it.  When that occurs, New Jersey will both reinforce its status as a protector of constitutional liberties, as well as take a prominent role in what must be an eventual reversing of federal policy.

Works Cited

Jordan, B.  N.J.’s Judge’s Ruling Bolsters Gay Marriage Lawsuit.  USA Today, 22 Feb., 2012. Print.

Knox, D., & Schacht, C.  Choices in Relationships: An Introduction to Marriage and the Family. Belmont: Cengage Learning, 2009.  Print.

Spoto, M.  “Chris Christie Says No to NJ Gay Marriage Bill, Would Agree to Strengthen Civil Union Law. The Star-Ledger, 18 Feb., 2012.  Print.

Young, E.  “New Jersey Voters’ Gay-Marriage Support Reaches High After Christie Veto.” Bloomberg.com.  Web.  Retrieved 5 Mar., 2012, from http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-03-01/new-jersey-gay-marriage-support-reaches-high-after-christie-veto.html

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