Black Leaders Slam Chris Christie Over Civil Rights Comments

The state assembly speaker and the mayor of New Jersey’s largest city dispute the Republican governor's view that civil rights can be best attained through popular vote.

Posted: 01/26/2012 03:50 PM EST
New Jersey, Jackie Robinson, same-sex marriage, Chris Christie, Cory Booker, Shelia Oliver

Two prominent African-American officials in New Jersey have harshly criticized Gov. Chris Christie for statements related to his proposal to put the issue of same-sex marriage to a popular vote in November.

Christie, a Republican, said that the leaders of the civil rights movement would have happily placed the causes they championed to a public vote. Earlier in the week, the governor proposed that same-sex marriage be decided by the voters.

“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,” Newark Mayor Cory Booker said. “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.”

Booker said that under the proposal the governor offers, Jackie Robinson would not have been able to achieve the historic role as the first African-American player in major league baseball.

Similarly, Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver took strong issue with Christie’s position.  

“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.”

In response, the governor defended his position and said that his intention was to offer a compromise on the highly controversial issue of same-sex 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,” Christie said. “My view is a public referendum on a constitutional amendment regarding same-sex marriage is a way to get to that result.”

A bill to permit same-sex marriage was defeated in the state’s Senate two years ago. But the issue was reignited earlier this month when the Democratic-led Senate called it a priority for the new legislative session. Earlier, Christie said he would veto any bill that permitted same-sex marriage.

Six states and Washington, D.C., permit gay marriages. Additionally, 31 states have adopted constitutional amendments defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

On Monday, Gov. Christie appointed the first openly gay Black judge to New Jersey's State Supreme Court.



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(Photos from left: njleg.state.nj.us, Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images,  Bennett Raglin/Getty Images)

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