Yes, my friends, marriage is what brings us together today. You see, that blessed arrangement, that dream within a dream, was denied yesterday to same sex couples in my home state of New Jersey by straight-talking savior of the Republican Party Chris Christie. The man who more-or-less singlehandedly cut so much money from the state budget that it actually violated New Jersey’s constitutional right to education and who is known for his verbal smackdowns of critics (like this and this), is suddenly deferential to a fault. Christie vetoed an extension of the definition of marriage to same-sex couples because “an issue of this magnitude and importance, which requires a constitutional amendment, should be left to the people of New Jersey to decide.”
First of all, why on Earth does this require a constitutional amendment? Marriage isn’t currently mentioned anywhere in the New Jersey Constitution (which you can read here if you’re a masochist), except in one very detailed provision about taxes which is in the document for reasons passing understanding. Secondly, those legislators who tried to make same-sex marriage into law didn’t just show up in Trenton for no reason and start issuing decrees. Believe me, no one goes to Trenton unless they absolutely have to. Rather, they were sent there as representatives of the people of New Jersey whom Christie claims to respect so much. So perhaps it’s the “magnitude and importance” of the issue that means it should be put to a referendum. Of course, that means that the governor doesn’t think his proposal to cap property tax rates or his cuts to pensions were very large or important. So I suspect that Christie’s position has little to do with a principled stand on the issue, and lots to do with something else of magnitude and importance: Chris Christie.
Christie has great political instincts, and he knows that a pro-marriage-equality Republican has about as much chance of becoming the GOP nominee for president as someone who instituted a statewide healthcare plan and supported abortion. And barring any scandals or serious policy surprises, Christie will be interviewing for that job in 4–8 years. But if he’s playing the long game, he’ll also have noticed that a majority of Americans support gay marriage, and that the numbers are heavily weighted towards younger people, who will soon be slightly-older people and will constitute a large chunk of the electorate. Christie’s instincts probably also tell him that it’s hard (but not impossible) to get elected president if a majority of the American people don’t support you. His referendum plan lets him thread this needle. Christie doesn’t support gay marriage — look at how he vetoed that bill in New Jersey. Christie doesn’t oppose gay marriage — he’s just a friend of the people first. As it happens, polls show a majority of New Jerseyans support gay marriage but would like it to be put to a referendum, meaning that Christie may have just outsmarted everyone. Hard to believe that he of all people can be stealthy.
Cover photo credit: Wikimedia Commons; Video Credit: The Princess Bride
This week: Congress and the president have directed the FAA to allow unmanned aerial vehicles — drones — to be used for both private and law enforcement purposes in U.S. airspace. I’m sure this will cause no problems whatsoever.