Friday, January 27, 2012

Voting Rights

New Jersey’s legislature is on the verge of voting on marriage equality, and Gov. Chris Christie (R) is threatening to veto the law should it pass. His stand is that it should be voted on by referendum, not “121 people in Trenton.”

That’s a weaselly way of getting out of it the discussion. He’s doing it so he doesn’t have to take a stand and come across as a homophobic right-winger; hey, it’s not the law, it’s the process. That’s a typical chickenshit way out for a politician. So far so good. But then he goes and steps on the rake.

…he said, there’s nothing “so special about this particular issue that it must be handled by a legislature.”

“The fact of the matter is, I think people would have been happy to have a referendum on civil rights rather than fighting and dying in the streets in the South,” he said.

That didn’t go over too well with some of the people who remember all too well what it was like to fight for civil rights.

The comment outraged many African-American leaders in the state, who pointed out that such a referendum never would have passed in the south during the 60s — and that many black people were also disenfranchised at the time.

“People were fighting and dying in the streets of the South for a reason,” Oliver said. “They were fighting and dying in the streets of the South because the majority refused to grant minorities equal rights by any method. It look legislative action to bring justice to all Americans, just as legislative action is the right way to bring marriage equality to all New Jerseyans.”

“The governor’s comment is an insult to those who had no choice but to fight and die in the streets for equal rights,” she added.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D) had a similar take. “Dear God, we should not be putting civil rights issues to a popular vote, to be subject to the sentiments, the passions of the day. No minority should have their rights subject to the passions and the sentiments of the majority. This is the fundamental bedrock of what our nation stands for.”

Gov. Christie sounds like someone who has never faced any kind of discrimination. He has never lived a day in his life with the knowledge that there are laws that were written in such a way as to deny him a life with all his basic rights intact. Must be nice.

Rights are not something you vote on. That’s why they are rights; they are fundamental to the foundation of our country. They are the essence of freedom; they don’t restrict us, they liberate us. And that is why a lot of people didn’t like the idea of black people voting in the South — or anywhere else — and that’s why they don’t like the idea of same-sex couples having the same rights and responsibilities as straight couples. It’s not the act that enrages them (although some of them are really hung up on gay sex); it’s the fact that they cannot abide the idea of people they hate and fear having the same rights as they do.

I’ll give Gov. Christie the benefit of the doubt; after all, he just appointed an openly gay man to the state supreme court. He’s a privileged white guy who doesn’t have the insight to know or understand what it’s like to live without something, so it’s easy to dismiss the call for a right that he’s never been without. That doesn’t make him a homophobic bigot; it just makes him a jerk.