Saturday, January 28, 2012

Should New Jersey Voters Have a Referendum on Allowing Same Sex Marriage?

Yes, In Politics the Best Thing May Not Always Be the Right Thing

[Update:  Gov. Christie has suggested that there should have been a popular vote on Civil Rights legislation in the South in the 1960's.  This pushes the needle back to towards the "buffoon" category in his rating.]

Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey has proposed to settle the same sex marriage issue in that state by allowing a vote on an amendment to the state Constitution that would allow same sex marriage in the state.

He made his proposal 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.

The supporters of same sex marriage rights are opposed to a referendum type vote on the issue, and they have a strong moral point.

“Marriage equality isn’t like sports betting,” said Senator Raymond Lesniak, a Union County Democrat, referring to a referendum on an amendment to the State Constitution on gambling last year. “It’s a civil right, which is already guaranteed in our Constitution. It’s up to the Legislature to guarantee these rights.”

They are right, we don’t vote on basic human rights, the right to equality before the law is enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and it is a core principle of American democracy.

But being right does not always mean being correct.  Times have changed, just in the past few years the public attitude has changed on this subject, and the attitudes in New Jersey indicate such a vote could result in approval of same sex marriage.

A poll released by Quinnipiac University last week found that 52 percent of New Jersey voters believed that same-sex couples should have the right to marry, and 53 percent believed that denying them that right constituted discrimination.

So from a practical as opposed to a moral view, it seems like supporters of anti-discrimination should accept the Governor’s offer and have a vote.  If the vote wins it is a clear and unambiguous statement that voters have moved to the correct position on the issue, and a clear rebuke to those politicians who continue to oppose equal rights.

And politicians are about as weak and cowardly a class as you will find in this country.  If they believe the time has come to approve same sex marriage, all but the most adamantly opposed to equal rights for all Americans will start to support the issue.

The upside of a winning vote is huge.  A loss is not that devastating, it would merely postpone rather than eliminate the future approval of same sex marriage.  On that basis New Jersey ought to go ahead and vote.  It is a huge opportunity for the public to express it support for the rights of everyone.

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