Black leaders blast Chris Christie over civil rights comments

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by Angela Delli Santi

TRENTON, N.J. (AP)—Two of New Jersey’s most influential Black leaders blasted Gov. Chris Christie, Jan. 25, for proposing gay marriage be put to a popular vote in November, but the Republican governor insisted he’s offering a reasonable compromise amid his personal opposition to same-sex nuptials.

Christie
UNDER FIRE—New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie answers a question in Trenton, N.J., Jan. 25, about his statement that he will veto a bill being considered by the legislature to legalize gay marriage. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver and Newark Mayor Cory Booker said in separate forums that civil rights are guaranteed by the Constitution and don’t belong on the ballot.

Booker said baseball great Jackie Robinson would not have had the opportunity to break the sport’s color barrier had the matter been put to a vote, and the mayor himself would not have had the opportunity, years later, to be elected to lead New Jersey’s largest city. Oliver said in a statement she was offended by Christie’s comment Jan. 24 that bloodshed may have been avoided in the South, and people would have been happier, if the civil rights issues of the 1960s were settled by public referendum.

“Governor, people were fighting and dying in the streets of the South because the majority refused to grant minorities equal rights by any method,” Oliver said. “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.”

Booker said during a news conference in Newark: “Dear God, we should not be putting civil rights issues to a popular vote, to be subject to the sentiments, the passions of the day. No minority should have their rights subject to the passions and the sentiments of the majority. This is the fundamental bedrock of what our nation stands for.”

Christie defended himself at a Statehouse news conference, saying he’s offering a compromise on gay marriage.

“I’m in divided government and I’m trying to find a way for people … to find another pathway where everybody can have a chance to get what they want,” he said. “My view is a public referendum on a constitutional amendment regarding same-sex marriage is a way to get to that result.”

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