Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Profile in Cowardice

In the final scene of Joe Orton's classic farce, "What the Butler Saw,"* the six characters stand revealed (figuratively and literally, half or even fully naked, depending on the production), bloodied (at least one character has been shot), and united in their desire for the whole sordid day to please just be over.

We're still in January, but that's how I already view the 2012 GOP presidential primary.

And yet, this is the democratic process...messy, at times even brutal, but always about the potential leaders giving the people a real opportunity to see them up close and personal. If you're gonna give someone the nuclear codes for four years, you really want to be sure they can handle that responsibility.

And more than giving the people a look at the candidates, it's about giving the candidates a chance to meet the people. To listen to their concerns and hopes first hand. To carry back into office, should they win, a clear sense of the will of the people. That's why they're called our "elected representatives." It's their role in our social contract to act on our behalf, to represent our hopes and needs. We empower them to make and enforce the laws that we'll have to live by. So our hope is that they have a good understanding of who we are and what we believe. After that, they ARE our voice in government. And, besides, if they betray our beliefs, we always can vote them out.

That's what NJ Governor Chris Christie, who many in the GOP wish would throw his hat into the presidential race, is pretending he doesn't understand in his promise to veto a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in the Garden State. After initially saying he would consider the bill when it hit his desk, now, even before it's been passed (and that seems certain), he's arguing that this is an issue the people should decide in a state referendum for a change to the state constitution, knowing that would require a lot more time and save him from potentially being the first GOP candidate running for President who had signed same-sex marriage into law. The New York Times has the details on this undemocratic cowardice:
The same-sex marriage bill is a priority for Democrats, led by the Senate president, Stephen M. Sweeney, who has said that his decision not to vote on a similar bill two years ago, when there was a Democratic governor who supported same-sex marriage, was “the biggest mistake” of his political career.

Gay-rights advocates had been hoping that Mr. Christie, who supports civil unions over same-sex marriage, might sign the legislation, or, if he vetoed it, give Republican legislators tacit approval to vote for an override.

Mr. Christie is considered a rising national star in a party still dominated by socially conservative voters who oppose same-sex marriage. But he had been uncharacteristically noncommittal in recent weeks. On Monday, he nominated a gay man to the State Supreme Court, and when asked about the prospects for the marriage bill, said that he would make a decision if and when the bill ever reached his desk.

He made his proposal [for a state referendum instead] on Tuesday after a town-hall-style meeting in Bridgewater, suggesting that the ballot question be presented to voters as a constitutional amendment. “The fact is, we’re discussing huge change, and I believe we need to approach this not only in a thoughtful way, not in a rushed way, but also in a way where we’re able to get the most input that we can from the public,” he said.
But Mr. Christie is fully aware how our democracy works and insists on it, when it suits his own political career:
“When the governor was doing his town hall meetings, I can’t tell you how many times he said, ‘Call your legislator, I want to make these changes;’ ” Mr. Sweeney said in an interview later. “Why would he put this on the ballot when everything that’s been important in this state in the last two years has been handled by the Legislature?”
According to a recent poll released by Quinnipiac University, 52% of New Jersey residents believe same-sex couples should have the right to marry, and only 42% are opposed. That's a clear majority, and their elected leaders are prepared to support their belief.

Christie is also ignoring the decision of the NJ Supreme Court:
In 2006, the State Supreme Court ruled that gay couples had the same rights as heterosexual married couples, but left it up to the Legislature to decide how to ensure those rights.
The Legislature has decided.

Now Christie wants to deny those rights again, for what looks more like his own political expediency than what his constituents clearly want. He's on the wrong side of history. He should be ashamed of his selfishness in this matter. Same-sex families need and deserve the right to marry now.

*Final scene (from the BBC):

Labels: gay politics


Anonymous Charles Browning said...

where's the "like" button?

1/25/2012 09:11:00 AM  

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