In homage to Loving vs. The State of Virginia, the case many civil rights activists remember as the landmark Supreme Court ruling in 1967 that made it possible for interracial couples to marry, Loving is a little bit closer for lesbian and gay couples in the Garden State. While New Jersey has one of the longest running and strongest laws against discrimination in the country, it has taken more than 20 years of activism for state senators and assembly people to take a further step on the road to equality. On February 16, the New Jersey Assembly followed the suit of New Jersey Senate’s 24-to-16 decision on February 13, to move Marriage Equality forward. S1 and A1, as the bills were known, wait now for the decision of Governor Chris Christie, who has promised to veto the law when it reaches his desk in the next few days.
The February 16 Assembly vote fell, razor sharp, down party lines, with 42 Democrats voting, in simple majority, over 33 Republicans. Many felt that it was pointless to vote on something that would be vetoed immediately, but New Jersey legislators and supporters now have until January 2014 to override the veto if and when it happens. Governor Christie is like a chameleon, with one eye on New Jersey and the other on the national political scene. He is a marquee attraction at Republican fund raisers around the country, but with President Barack Obama’s numbers rising, it begs the question of whether Christie’s national aspirations will come to fruition, even while pandering to conservatives inside and outside the more progressive confines of New Jersey.
Recently, news stories have described the greater diversity Americans see around their dinner tables, specifically in terms of interracial marriage. Nearly 50 years after the first Supreme Court decision to make taking care of a loving partner legal, one in seven new marriages in this country is interracial. As one article says, eight percent of anything is statistically relevant, while at the same time, a high percentage of “new” marriages is a lower percentage of marriages in the Unites States in the aggregate of new and existing relations. Latino and Asian people marry other races most frequently, though the greater number of interracial couples involve Black men and women marrying other races. Putting the situation into perspective, in 1980 3.2% of marriages were interracial, 6.7% in 2008, and 8.0% in 2010 to 14.6% in 2011.
Four hundred years ago, William Shakespeare’s Othello and Desdemona got married and had a difficult time against jealous, fractious Iago. Today, gay and lesbian couples continue to hear how unfit we are to take care of one another. New Jersey has taken a step toward full equality for all of its citizens, but according to Garden State Equality, the advocacy group that has taken the fight over for the past several years, it is the third state to work to enact a legislative solution under a governor opposed to that legislation. Governor Christie says he wants to put the issue on the ballot, even though history clearly demonstrates that Civil Rights have been the duty of the legislators to enact. Had Black Civil Rights been put to a vote in the South during the time of the Freedom Riders, would there have been desegregation in Alabama, Georgia, Florida and Texas?
On the afternoon of February 16, as I was heading into New York City via the Lincoln Tunnel, 1010 WINS broadcast the outcome of the vote. Since I was speeding at a dead standstill, I made three calls, one to each Assembly representative and one to my State Senator, thanking each and every one for their work and their vote on the issues that mean so much to me. We are quick to call when we’re unhappy–do your legislators a solid favor and call them to THANK them when they do something right. After all, is it fair to administer the stick without sometimes giving them the carrot that they’ve earned?
Thanks for fighting the battle, New Jersey! There are peaks and valleys but we’re ready to fight to the next level in this war and soon the flag of full Equality will be planted on Trenton’s gold dome. Thank you, Governor Christie, for one day giving us the victory that will be that much more worthwhile for coming in spite of your best efforts.