New Jersey governor Chris Christie made a careful distinction today by separating "gay marriage" from "gay rights," which he says he supports.
Christie vetoed a marriage equality bill passed by the legislature last month and during a forum with students on MSNBC's Morning Joe today he was asked to explain why he opposes "a bill to allow gay rights in the state of New Jersey."
"I did veto a bill on gay marriage, not on gay rights," Christie said. "And gay rights are protected and protected aggressively in New Jersey."
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, whom Christie has vocally supported during multiple television appearances, has made a similar distinction in the past. Pundits have considered Christie a possible vice-presidential selection, so it helps that he's on the same page. Romney was confronted by Piers Morgan in June about bragging that he supports gay rights.
"When you say, 'I'm in favor of gay rights,' you're not," Morgan pointed out. "You're in favor of some, not all. Is that right?"
Then Romney explained that marriage isn't part of what he defines as "gay rights."
"The gay community changed their perspective as to what they wanted," he told Morgan. "I opposed same-sex marriage. At the same time, I would advance the efforts not to discriminate against people who are gay."
Christie has pointed out in the past that President Obama also sees
himself as supportive of LGBT rights while withholding support for
marriage equality. But Obama has generally opposed the alternative solution being floated by Christie — a referendum on marriage. Romney has not commented on whether he would back the Christie alternative, which is to put marriage equality up for a statewide vote in November when the presidential election is decided. Polls show increasing support for same-sex marriage in New Jersey, but activists say it's wrong to put the civil rights of a minority up for a majority vote.
The last time that happened in New Jersey was in 1915, when men voted statewide not to give women the right to vote.