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Gov. Chris Christie defended his veto of marriage equality in New Jersey by saying he's just siding with President Obama, who he says is "silent" and cowardly on the issue.
But when Washington Post editorial writer Jonathan Capehart, who is gay, came from off-set during Morning Joe to correct the governor and confront him about whether he agrees with the list of things Obama has actually done on marriage, it was the governor who suddenly wouldn't answer.
"The Democrats in my state who are criticizing me say my feet are firmly planted on the wrong side of justice," Christie said on MSNBC. "My feet are firmly planted right next to President Obama's, and they don't criticize him."
Although Obama does not personally support same-sex marriage -- and that's been pointed out when convenient by Republicans including Sarah Palin and Rick Santorum -- Capehart wasn't going to let Christie pretend he and Obama have the exact same position.
"The key difference between you and the president is while you support putting the civil rights of a minority up for a public referendum, the president is certainly not in favor of that," Capehart pointed out.
Christie didn't believe Capehart's assertion that Obama had ever opposed a referendum on marriage equality. But President Obama did oppose Proposition 8 as a candidate, and the White House reiterated his opposition, albeit not aggressively, when an appeals court ruled in January that the vote was unconstitutional.
"The record is clear that the president has long opposed divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny rights and benefits to same-sex couples," said White House spokesman Shin Inouye in a statement to The Advocate afterward. "The president believes strongly in stopping laws designed to take rights away." Press secretary Jay Carney has reiterated basically the same line several times when asked by reporters about ballot initiatives.
It should be noted that Proposition 8 wouldn't be like what Christie has proposed putting on the ballot, which would be a vote on granting rights, not taking them away. Civil rights leaders argue the ballot box isn't the place for a vote on rights regardless of whether they're being given or taken.
But Capehart also confronted Christie with a list of things Obama has done on marriage and asked whether the New Jersey governor and possible vice-presidential candidate, "Would you support that? Would you support that?" Christie never answered the repeated questions.
Instead, Christie audibly groaned as Capehart pointed out that the Obama Justice Department has abandoned the Defense of Marriage Act in court challenges. The president has also endorsed the Respect for Marriage Act, proposed in Congress, which would repeal DOMA.
Obama also praised marriage equality in New York as "a good thing" but was keeping his comments only to the process that evolved and not the outcome. For his part, after the neighboring state approved the marriage bill, Christie condemned it and reiterated his veto pledge. On marriage equality specifically, Christie said "the president is silent."
"Let's have the president of the United States show some courage, come on this program, look into the camera like I'm looking into the camera, and state his position," Christie said, instead of answering Capehart's questions. "He won't because he wants to have it both ways. I'm not looking to have it both ways, I vetoed the bill. That's my position."