By Carla Katz | November 12th, 2007 - 5:28pm
| More

This Sunday's New York Times lauds Governor Corzine for his support of same-sex marriage even though he has said that he wants to wait until 2009 to avoid muddying the political waters of next year's Presidential race.  Dr. Martin Luther King said it best when he said, "justice delayed is justice denied." While I, too, praise the Governor for his support on this issue, I think he is dead wrong to postpone equal protections for all in deference to politics.

As New Jersey debates when to enact marriage equality -- whether in 2008, as activists want, or 2009 as the Governor wants -- three factors predominate over the political and legal landscape.

First, the civil union law is, as our state's civil rights director said this week, a failure.  In seven hours of testimony at the recent New Jersey Civil Union Review Commission hearings, nearly 100 couples and other expert witnesses spoke about the failure of the civil union law to provide the equal protection that marriage provides.  There were even stories about civil-unioned couples, who because they weren't married, were having difficulty visiting one another in the hospital.

Second, calling same-sex relationships "marriage" would make an actual difference in New Jersey.   Experts from Massachusetts testified that the Bay State is seeing none of the problems in same-sex marriages being recognized that New Jersey is seeing in getting civil-unions recognized.  The real world, and its employers in particular, respects marriage in ways it does not respect civil unions.

Third, the Governor is wrong on the politics.  It is clear that conservatives will try to make "gay marriage" an issue in 2008 to whip up its base.  But they will do that whether New Jersey passes a same-sex marriage law or not.  And unlike in 2004, when the same sex-marriage issue was hot Presidential political fodder despite a dearth of state laws, Americans are in a state of feverish discontent over the Iraq War and the wrong direction in which our nation is headed. Those issues are way more likely to prevail.  We saw signs of that in the 2006 Congressional elections, when attempts to demonize "gay marriage" felt flat.

The truth is, same-sex marriage is not a ‘gay' issue. It is a civil rights issue, pure and simple. It is, and should be, as important to those of us in the ‘straight' community as any other civil rights issue.  Time and again, the United States Supreme Court has announced that marriage is a fundamental, constitutionally protected right of all citizens.  I emphasize the word "all".  One need not even support the concept of marriage sanctioned by the church or the state to defend the rights of same-sex couples to marry. Defending that right simply means being in favor of equal rights for all.

In 1947, the California Supreme Court struck down that state's ban on interracial marriage while 48 states still prohibited Blacks and whites from marrying. It took twenty more years, and a bloody civil rights movement for integration and voting rights, until the U.S. Supreme Court in Loving v. Virginia unanimously struck down all interracial marriage bans in the country. Thirty years later, some consenting adults can still not marry other consenting adults.

Our country has at least 1,138 federal laws "in which marital status is a factor." The Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution makes denial of rights or benefits without substantive due process a violation of the right to equal protection of all citizens.  Yet, despite the passage of a civil union law in 2006 granting equal protections to gay and lesbian citizens, same-sex couples in New Jersey continue to be denied the rights and benefits that straight couples enjoy.  

If we are honest, we cannot say that civil unions in New Jersey are 'just as good' as marriage or even 'good enough.'   In addition to the overwhelming evidence presented at the Civil Union Review Commission hearings, newspapers across the state have conducted independent investigations of how the civil union law is working.  All the investigations arrived at the same conclusion:  The state's civil union law is not providing same-sex couples the rights and benefits that marriage would.  History, therefore, has proven the dissenting justices in the October 2006 N.J. Supreme Court decision that led to civil unions to be correct.  "The word 'marriage' in itself," the dissenters wrote, "conveys tremendous importance and advantages."  Yes, the "M" word matters.

In Lawrence v. Texas (2003), the Supreme Court held that the right to private consensual sexual conduct was a protected right under the Fourteenth Amendment and noted that "moral disapproval does not constitute legitimate governmental interest under the Equal Protection Clause." Advocates, as well as opponents of marriage equality believe this ruling paved the way for subsequent decisions invalidating state prohibitions on same-sex marriage. 

New Jersey should lead the way. As marriage is indeed a ‘fundamental right' and a civil right, then marriage equality for all New Jersey's citizens should be the law. Enactment, and justice, should not be delayed, not even for one more day.

The Back Room

Asbury Park Press corrects Williams error in Christie report

The Asbury Park Press last night mopped up after NBC anchor Brian Williams overreached when he said the feds had cleared Gov. Chris Christie of wrongdoing in a federal investigation, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Read More >

Wake-Up Call

Morning Digest: September 19th

NBC News: Federal charges ruled out for Christie in Bridgegate scandal NBC News tonight is reporting that federal investigators say after nine months of investigating Bridgegate there is 'no evidence" that Gov. Chris Christie had advance knowledge about any politically motivated scheme around the bridge lane closures at the...

Op-Ed

Legislation needed for publicly financed gubernatorial elections

By JEFF BRINDLE It is critical that the Legislature soon enact a pending bill that would ensure the state’s Gubernatorial Public Financing Program is available in the event of a special election for governor.  Not only is there no current legal... Read More >

Contributors

(9-17-14) Viral Video Prompts Questionable NJ Municipal Ordinance -  Socrates said, “While I might disagree with what you say, I will defend to the death your right to say... more »
The Correct Foreign Policy – Neither Fortress America Nor Pax Americana      Last week marked the 75th anniversary of the beginning of World War 2.  It started with the... more »
(Asbury Park, NJ) -- There's a word for someone who says one thing and does another: hypocrite.  There's no shortage of 'em in Trenton -- from ... more »
 The following letter was sent today to Republican state legislators, county chairs, state committee members, and New Hampshire... more »

Quote of the Day

quote of the day

“The fact is that they’ve been digging around for eight months now and have found absolutely nothing. Wrap up your work. Do your job." - Gov. Chris Christie

- PolitickerNJ

Poll

Should the Joint Legisaltive Committee investigating Bridgegate 'wrap it up?':

Blogroll

Visit the PolitickerNJ.com/resources page for links to the best collection of information on New Jersey state government.

 

  • Polls
  • The best blogs
  • Columnists
  • State election results
  • Assembly election results
  • Local party websites
  • And more.

PolitickerNJ.com/resources