As a strategy presumably designed to create a political dilemma for Gov. Chris Christie, the Democratic legislative leadership’s decision to establish legalization of same sex marriage as its top priority is both puzzling and flawed.
It suggests, for instance, that it ranks higher than controlling government spending, assuring long term stabilization of property taxes, and dealing with proposals to dramatically change the state’s system of public education.
To be sure, official recognition of same sex marriage is an issue worthy of consideration and the leadership deserves credit for including it as part of its agenda in the new legislative session. Support has grown slowly but steadily over the past few years and the issue is one whose time has arrived.
Signaling, however, that its takes precedence over concerns much closer to the daily lives of New Jerseyans --- jobs, economic stability, taxes and spending --- appears to be a strategic overreach. Moreover, it raises the suspicion that the Democrats have concluded they will cede to the Governor the authority to establish the agenda and frame the debate for those economic issues and that they will merely react to his ideas rather than develop and promote their own.
Given the Governor’s oft-stated opposition to same sex marriage and his repeated warnings that he would veto legislation to legalize it, the Democratic plan to use the issue to create a political embarrassment for him seems pointless.
There’s no evidence that Christie will change his position and Democrats concede they will be unable to muster sufficient votes to override his veto.
Many have speculated the Democrats’ goal is to use a gubernatorial veto as hard evidence that Christie is playing to the more conservative base of the Republican Party in a quest for broader recognition and consideration for a spot on the national ticket.
Creating that perception, the theory goes, will inflict some damage on the Governor by portraying him as an opponent of a basic civil right, one supported by a majority of New Jerseyans.
Such a view is both misguided and reveals an ignorance of recent history. His opposition to same sex marriage was well documented before he became the subject of intense pressure to declare for the presidency. His endorsement was eagerly sought by Republican presidential candidates; he continues to be touted as a vice presidential candidate, and his appearances on behalf of Mitt Romney have drawn considerable national media attention.
His appeal to the Republican base is already very well established. There is no need for him to burnish his credentials any further by vetoing legislation to recognize same sex marriage.
Two years ago when Christie vetoed a Democratic-backed effort to reinstate an income tax surcharge on high income earners within minutes of its passage, he suffered no lasting political consequences.
Arguably, raising some $800 million from the wealthiest New Jerseyans and directing it to additional aid to local schools and municipalities as a property tax relief measure ranks higher in popular support than approval of same sex marriage. Despite that, Christie showed no hesitation in quickly vetoing it.