Under progress, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie nominated an openly gay African-American Republican to the state Supreme Court. This is significant, particularly in a state where a pending marriage-equality lawsuit will likely make it to the Supreme Court. This latest suit argues that the state’s civil-union law — and the lack of “marriage” — does not fulfill the Supreme Court’s 2006 ruling to grant same-sex couples rights equivalent to marriage.
That said, Christie’s nomination is a safe one on this issue: The court already ruled in favor of providing same-sex couples with equitable rights. Adding a gay voice isn’t likely to radically change the outcome of that vote.
This isn’t to say that Christie is the largest friend — or foe — of the LGBT community in New Jersey. While he backed the state’s tough bullying bill last year, he also promised to veto the pending marriage-equality bill and said it should be on the ballot in the fall.
In stating that he’d rather have the issue go to referendum, he also drew ire with this: “People would have been happy to have referendum on civil rights rather than fighting and dying in the streets in the South.”
Perhaps he doesn’t fully understand the events of the Civil Rights Movement, and that the public wasn’t in favor of equal rights for African Americans: A voter referendum wouldn’t have given equal rights. (Nor is it appropriate for the majority to vote on the rights of minorities.)
Assembly speaker Sheila Oliver called it “unfathomable” and an “insult” to suggest a referendum would have been the better course, adding: “It took legislative action to bring justice to all Americans, just as legislative action is the right way to bring marriage equality to all New Jerseyans.”
Under events now taken for granted was President Obama’s use of the word “gay” in the State of the Union address. This is the third time Obama has directly referenced gays in the annual address, each time referring to the repeal of the ban on openly gay servicemembers in the military. In 2010, Obama promised to repeal the ban; in 2011, he promised to enact the repeal Congress had passed the month prior. In his 2012 address, Obama said it doesn’t matter if you are “black or white, Asian or Latino, conservative or liberal, gay or straight” when you are on a military mission — reinforcing that gays and lesbians can now serve openly and calling for Congress to work together.
Also, First Lady Michelle Obama invited two lesbians to sit with her and Dr. Biden during the State of the Union address — but it’s not the first time she has hosted LGBTs.
Though some might discount the Obamas’ inclusion of gays and lesbians as commonplace and, therefore, insignificant, it’s worth noting that Obama is the first president to say “gay” in his State of the Union address.
While the LGBT community has made progress, until full equality is achieved, it’s too early to take any of it for granted.