Congratulations, New Jersey!

Congratulations, New Jersey! October 23, 2013

As a born-and-raised New Yorker, I reserve the right to make fun of New Jersey every so often, but this week I have nothing but congratulations for my neighbors in the Garden State:

As couples across New Jersey began marrying on Monday after the stroke of midnight, Gov. Chris Christie abandoned his long fight against same-sex marriage, concluding that signals from the court and the march of history were against him.

His decision not to appeal a judge’s ruling that allowed the weddings removed the last hurdle to legalized same-sex marriage in New Jersey, making it the 14th state, along with the District of Columbia, to allow gay couples to wed.

New Jersey has had civil unions since 2006, but a full marriage-equality bill has long been advancing through the legislative sausage-grinder. It passed the state legislature in 2012, but was vetoed by Republican governor Chris Christie. That proved to be a short-lived victory for homophobes, since in the aftermath of the DOMA decision, a state court held that it was a violation of equal protection to deny same-sex couples the federal benefits that come with marriage.

Christie appealed that ruling and asked the state supreme court to hear the case, but when they made it obvious that they would rule against him, he dropped his appeal, clearing the last obstacle and allowing same-sex marriage to begin in New Jersey. Naturally, the hardcore bigots were bitterly disappointed, accusing Christie of “abandoning” them by throwing in the towel once it was obvious he would lose. Apparently they’d have preferred him to waste time and energy in a futile fight as long as it was remotely possible – what might be dubbed the From-My-Cold-Dead-Hands theory of governing. (Incidentally, NOM’s scary-gay-juggernaut graphic needs updating again.)

With this latest puzzle piece in place, the entire Eastern Northeastern Seaboard and a full one-third of the U.S. population now lives in states that recognize the equality of same-sex couples. You have to wonder what the religious opponents of marriage equality think their endgame is. What do they imagine they’ll gain by continuing to fight the tide? Do they honestly believe they can keep same-sex marriage from spreading to any more states? Are they just hanging on for as long as big donors keep cutting them checks?

Or are they delusional enough to believe they can reverse this progress? Do they think they can turn back the clock and persuade the voters to support breaking up same-sex marriages? Actually, that just might be the case: for instance, they’re breathlessly telling each other that “marriage, family, decency and common sense are all collapsing” in Maine, which legalized same-sex marriage by popular vote last year, which I’m sure comes as a surprise to the rest of us. The right-wing bubble seems to be intact.

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