Chris Christie Reacts To SCOTUS Gay Marriage Ruling In An Unsurprising Way, But The Move Complicates His Campaign
Chris Christie is a mixed bag. With the New Jersey governor and brash politico set to announce his formal 2016 White House bid on Tuesday, that jumble is about to get even crazier. After the Supreme Court ruled on Friday that it was unconstitutional to bar same-sex couples from obtaining marriage licenses and equal protections under the law, Christie reacted to the gay marriage decision by saying it should not have been left up to the Justices, but the American people, aligning himself closely with his future GOP rivals. But the comment put himself at odds with his own track record.
"This is something that should be decided by the people, not by, as [Justice Roberts] called it, five lawyers," said Christie in a statement that same afternoon, indicating that he was "unhappy" with the way the process had unfolded, but that he would abide by the Court's decision regardless. "That said, those five lawyers get to impose it under our system."
Christie's statements in regard to Friday's ruling may have jettisoned him into the GOP fast lane prior to this week's candidacy announcement, putting him toe to toe with his 13 Republican counterparts (possibly 15 if you count both Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who will likely declare soon as well). But as the Human Rights Campaign deftly pointed out, that surge may not last for long, if prospective voters have done their homework at all.
"As governor, Christie has drawn a consistent line opposing marriage equality ... [vetoing] a bill that would have allowed same-sex marriages to proceed in New Jersey, and even after a court ruling allowed same-sex marriages, said he opposed marriage equality," stated the group earlier this year, explaining that the governor instead favored continuing civil unions. "Nevertheless, same-sex marriage became legal in New Jersey under Chris Christie’s watch."
That fact alone — despite the fact that his comments at the time were nearly identical to those he touted on Friday — may hinder him come debate time, when his rivals will undoubtedly call open season on their relatively moderate compatriot. With his more centrist views on immigration and education already getting him in trouble with the right wing of the party, any potential contradictory stance will provide more than enough ammunition to those hoping to sweep in and steal his votes.
It's absolutely a form of political whiplash given that, in previous years, Christie has come under fire from more left-leaning opponents and those who believe the right of same-sex couples to marry is a human rights issue, and not one that should be left up to democratic process (or, as conservative darling Ayn Rand called it, the "majority" voting away "the rights of the minority"). Most notably, at one notorious campaign stop in 2013, the New Jersey governor was called out for aggressively debating one such marriage proponent, telling her curtly that if she didn't like his stance, she should "vote for the other person."
"This is different from gun control and taxes — this is a human rights issue," Bert Bueno told Christie after approaching him during the meet and greet. Christie purportedly leaned toward Bueno and replied:
Says you. If you're waiting to find a candidate you're going to agree with every time, go home and look at the mirror.
But that sort of maverick braggadocio, for which he's so well known, won't do any good if Christie's potential supporter base ferrets out what he really thinks about the LGBTQ community. According to his own notes on a bill signed in August 2013, which banned so-called "conversion therapy" for gay teens (bipartisan sponsor Tim Eustace called the therapy "an insidious form of child abuse" according to the AP), Christie explained he believed LGBTQ individuals were born that way and that the idea of homosexuality itself was not a sin. That belief, of course, went contrary to the Catholic Church, of which Christie has been a longtime believer.
Should his opponents decide to wrest that information from the archives (and they no doubt will, given the dirty nature of this year's already muddied field), Christie's campaign could potentially be over before it even begins, with hits coming from both the GOP and his liberal counterparts — fighting a war on two fronts is nearly always a political death sentence, after all. In a Republican era of fundamentalism and a hard bank to the right, the only thing left for him to do is to aggressively push forward and try to get ahead of it.
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