On Monday, New Jersey became the 14th state to begin marrying gay couples. Republican Governor Chris Christie, who personally opposes gay marriage and who previously vetoed legislation which redefined marriage, nevertheless recognized the authority of the New Jersey Supreme Court in ordering same-sex marriage licenses to be issued starting today:
Although the Governor strongly disagrees with the Court substituting its judgment for the constitutional process of the elected branches or a vote of the people, the Court has now spoken clearly as to their view of the New Jersey Constitution and, therefore, same-sex marriage is the law,” the Christie administration said in a statement. “The Governor will do his constitutional duty and ensure his Administration enforces the law as dictated by the New Jersey Supreme Court.” (here)
Christie, known as a moderate Republican, will likely become a lightning rod for the Tea Party-wing of the Republican party and social conservatives who believe he should have gone down swinging in his defense of traditional marriage. Instead, Christie, a former United States’ Attorney, has ordered his administration to withdraw an appeal that the state’s highest court was scheduled to hear regarding same-sex marriage in the Garden State. Why would Christie, who many believe has aspirations to run for President in 2016, risk alienating the conservative base of the Republican Party? Why not spend money and manpower in fighting a battle that he was, in all likelihood, going to lose? After all, the Tea Partiers love to waste precious resources on losing causes. Surely Christie would pick up support from the extreme right-wing of the party in his bid for the nomination in 2016.
I like Chris Christie. Despite what his detractors in the Republican Party might say, he is a Reagan conservative. When is the last time a Republican has won the state of New Jersey in a Presidential election? It was in 1988, with Ronald Reagan’s Vice President, George H.W. Bush. Since then, Democrats have won the Electoral College votes from the Garden State. However, Chris Christie is poised to win a second term as Governor. He is doing it as a social conservative in a liberal state. As recently as his debate with Democrat Barbara Buono, Christie reiterated his conservative views on marriage:
When asked during Tuesday’s New Jersey gubernatorial debate how he would react if one of his children came out as gay, Gov. Chris Christie (R) said he’d hug his child but also point out “that Dad believes that marriage is between one man and one woman.”
One mark of conservatism is that the rule of law be respected. Another distinguishing mark of Reagan conservatism, which differs dramatically from Cruz “conservatism,” is the ability to understand — and do something constructive — about the political realities that confront our nation instead of just bloviating in front of a C-Span camera. To ignore the inevitability of same-sex marriage coming to every state of the union — from New Jersey to New Mexico — is to live in a conservative Fantasy Land. It might be fun for a while, but, sooner or later, reality smacks you in the face. Some conservatives, who talk a good game of fiscal responsibility, would rather waste taxpayers’ money on a fight that is already lost. When the U.S. Supreme Court issued its rulings on same-sex marriage this past summer, it was just a matter of time before states like New Jersey used those rulings to legalize same-sex marriage.
With so many Republicans willing to waste millions of dollars in a government shutdown they were never going to win, it’s refreshing to have a politician who knows when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em. Going all in with a losing hand is not courageous. It is stupid! Christie, unlike some Tea Party Republicans, is not stupid. After reading the New Jersey Supreme Court’s ruling, he knew that it was time to stop fighting.
Same-sex marriage, whether we like it or not, is going to be the law of the land, not just in New Jersey, but in all 50 states before all is said and done. Do we want conservative governors like Chris Christie to ignore the law? Would we be willing to applaud liberal governors or a liberal President who refuses to enforce laws that they don’t agree with? If nothing else, conservatives should at least be consistent in living out our principles. Like him or hate him, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will be a force to be reckoned with in 2016 because he knows how to lead from a principled conservatism. That’s saying something in a political culture that gives eight-minute standing ovations to politicians who like to tilt at windmills!