Our Supreme Court made a landmark decision this week when it overturned the Defense of Marriage Act, which since 1996 has defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman. New Jersey’s Governor, my Governor, Chris Christie, publicly blasted this decision as “wrong” and what he described as “judicial supremacy.”
I certainly appreciate lively debate, and am proud to live in a country founded on protecting the expression of opposing ideas. However, for my elected official to deem this decision flat-out wrong, and effectively dismiss the personal choices of some of his electorate, smacks of disrespect.
Governor Christie takes issue with what he deems “judicial supremacy,” but in catching up to public opinion, the court acted as it often has throughout history. When this case was initially filed, same-sex marriage was legal in 3 states; now, it’s legal in 13 states and the District of Columbia. Of course, I’m not foolish enough to argue that we’re a nation united in celebration over this legal development.
On his “Ask the Governor” radio show, the Governor commented that the Court’s decision was “incredibly insulting” to those, including President Bill Clinton, who voted for the Defense of Marriage Act seventeen years ago. What he neglected to mention is that President Clinton later renounced that legislation, called for it to be repealed, and stated that he was pleased with the Court’s recent ruling nullifying it.
Maybe Governor Christie and I do have something in common, because I find his views on the subject insulting. He was reported to have said, “I believe that marriage should be between one man and one woman. I’ve said that, I ran on that, I’ve said it consistently. That doesn’t mean, in any way, shape or form, that I have anything against folks who are homosexual. In fact, I’ve said I believe people are born that way. I don’t believe it’s a choice…you were born with your sexual preference.” If I understand the spirit behind these words, he has nothing against people with the raw deal of God-given homosexuality as long as they don’t try to avail themselves of the rights and responsibilities of the chosen, heterosexual, traditionally married folk. According to the Governor, like a natural disaster, we’re an Act of God, so why can’t he be there for us like he was for those who suffered such devastation from Hurricane Sandy?
Governor Christie might be interested to know that I tried it his way. I was in what he would consider an acceptable marriage to a person of the opposite gender, but ultimately it didn’t work for me. Now, my two children and I live with my girlfriend and her three. If the Governor spent a day with us, he might think that we’re a family: we take our kids to school, go to work, hit the grocery store, cook balanced meals, help the kids study, do endless loads of laundry, drive to baseball games, pay bills, watch America’s Got Talent, and get exhausted. He’d be mistaken. My girlfriend and I can’t get married in the state where we’ve raised our kids and set deep roots. The best we can be is partners in a civil union, so that if we travel outside of New Jersey and I get hurt, she might not be allowed to make medical decisions for me; our employers may or may not decide to offer us both health insurance; we’d have the pre-civil rights status of separate and unequal; and we’d lack the many legal protections that married people enjoy related to survivorship rights and the tax system. Most significantly, in a civil union, we would not be recognized as a family.
I have the utmost respect for the office of New Jersey Governor, and I respect Chris Christie, as only the 55th person to ever hold this title. He’s made many personal decisions in his life; some I agree with and some I don’t. As long as those decisions don’t infringe on my liberties, I see no reason to interfere. Ironically, while my decision to live with a woman has not a single adverse affect on the Governor’s freedoms, it limits mine, which to me is “wrong” and smells a lot like gubernatorial supremacy.
Liz Kingsley lives in Westfield with her girlfriend and their five children. During the day, she teaches Special Education and Basic Skills at a local elementary school, writes poetry and columns about her family, and directs The Writers Studio. At night, she collapses from exhaustion.
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