New York City Council speaker Christine Quinn said that Gov. Chris Christie appears to be playing a “political game” rather than showing leadership with his call for a marriage equality referendum in New Jersey.
Quinn spoke with reporters Saturday evening at the annual Human Rights Campaign Gala in New York. Asked about Christie’s suggestion that New Jersey lawmakers put marriage equality to a public vote, she called the proposal an attempt to “govern by polling.” Christie, who wants the state to keep its civil union law, said Thursday that with a recent survey showing a majority of voters support same-sex marriage, his call for a referendum should be perceived as a “magnanimous” gesture.
“I think the legislature should vote and I think Governor Christie should sign the bill, and if he’s not wiling to sign the bill, then he should veto it,” said Quinn. “But he shouldn’t play a political game, which is in essence what he’s trying to do, which I think everybody has seen as too cute by half.”
The marriage equality bill, which failed in the Senate in 2010, is expected to pass the Democratic-controlled legislature when it receives floor votes in the Senate and Assembly the week of February 13. Christie, a prominent surrogate for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, has reiterated his vow to veto the bill and suggested that lawmakers send the issue to a referendum this fall. His proposal, which legislative leaders have flatly rejected, received intense criticism, particularly from African-American leaders, after the governor defended his position by saying that civil rights advocates in the South “would have been happy” to have a referendum in the 1950s and ’60s.
Quinn, a 2013 mayoral front-runner, brings personal connections to the situation unfolding in the Garden State. Her fiancée, Kim Catullo, hails from the state, and they have a house at the Jersey Shore in Bradley Beach, an area represented by Jennifer Beck, the only Republican senator to support the marriage equality bill. The speaker said she would “absolutely” be willing to do “anything I can to be helpful” to advocates, but she declined to say what she thought about the prospects for achieving enough bipartisan support to override the governor’s promised veto.
“There is a large LGBT community in New Jersey,” said Quinn. “I know that personally, and why Governor Christie wants to leave them behind and leave them out of full equality in the state is beyond me. And why he wants to put his state at a competitive disadvantage to most of its neighbors is really just bad economics.”
During the marriage equality campaign in New York last year, Quinn coordinated a coalition of business leaders that sent an open letter urging state lawmakers to pass the bill. Voices from the legal, financial, and real estate sectors argued that a marriage equality law would give the state a competitive advantage by attracting and retaining talented employees.
In remarks to the HRC gala, Quinn said the business coalition and similar partnerships held important lessons for remaining work on the Defense of Marriage Act and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act at the federal level, and the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act in New York. The coalition-building showed that the LGBT community “stands with huge allies all over the state, and this is a model that will get GENDA passed, that will get DOMA repealed, that will get ENDA passed, but it is also a model that other communities will follow and replicate,” she said.
Signers of the letter last year included Lloyd C. Blankfein, the chief executive of Goldman Sachs. HRC honored the investment bank with its Corporate Equality Award, a decision that prompted about 80 members from the Queer Caucus of Occupy Wall Street to protest the gala. Protesters reported that police moved them across the street from the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, site of the event.
Gov. Peter Shumlin of Vermont, U.S. senator Charles Schumer, and Congressman Jerrold Nadler also attended the gala. Glee cocreator Ryan Murphy presented Vogue editor in-chief Anna Wintour with the Ally For Equality Award for advocacy including her video for HRC's New Yorkers for Marriage Equality campaign.