Christie had a chance to lead, but didn’t

When Gov. Christie gave his State of the State address just a few weeks ago, he delivered for those who support him – and for those who don’t. His call for a 10 percent income-tax cut across the board was certainly refreshing, given that in this state, most of the time we’re talking about tax increases, not cuts.

And yet, on Feb. 17, all the good will Christie gained with those who don’t support him went away – quicker than he gained it – when he conditionally vetoed a bill that would have made New Jersey the most recent state to allow same-sex marriage.

Christie says he believes such a matter should be decided at the ballot box.

A matter of civil rights, again, he says should be decided at the ballot box.

He couldn’t be more wrong.

In states where same-sex marriage initiatives went to the voters, in essence, political leaders there were saying that it’s acceptable to allow the people to decide if simple, basic, human rights should be granted.

How any politician could view human rights as something that should be left up to voters – and not unilaterally legislated – is beyond comprehension.

Imagine if, in the 1860s, President Lincoln left the emancipation of slaves up to voters. Even with anti-slavery sentiment prevalent in the Union, do you think for one moment emancipation would have passed as a ballot measure?

Think back to when President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Do you think, for a second, southern states would have voted to adopt such a measure were it put into the hands of voters?

The bottom line here is simple: The U.S. Constitution calls for the guarantee of every American to enjoy life, liberty and property (the pursuit of happiness, as most call it).

Gay couples who wish to marry should be afforded the very same rights as heterosexual couples are afforded when they’re married. Calling same-sex nuptials “civil unions” simply doesn’t cut it. There are still countless rights straight couples get that “civil unioned” gay couples don’t get.

Christie had a chance, with the simple stroke of his pen, to end that.

He chose, cowardly, to instead and again insist the issue get into the hands of the voters.

When all is said and done – given poll numbers – New Jersey will, eventually, be added to the list of states that allow same-sex marriage. But it will take a silly ballot measure, millions of dollars in election costs – and more hateful rhetoric tossed around in the media – before it happens.

Instead of ultimately being seen as a man of courage, Christie will, instead, in my mind, go down as the governor who refused to grant basic, fundamental rights to gay couples.

And when push comes to shove, I know when I’ll remember this the most.

And that day comes in November 2013 when the governor stands for re-election.