As expected, Gov. Chris Christie has swiftly vetoed a bill that would have established same-sex marriage in New Jersey. Christie is a Roman Catholic who hasn’t been shy about expressing his personal opposition to the redefinition of marriage. But his handling of the veto shows he’s also trying to walk a fine line in a blue state and minimize political fallout with moderates and swing voters.
New Jersey already has gay civil unions (passed in 2006 and signed by Jon Corzine), and Christie’s “conditional” veto took advantage of this fact, asking the legislature to rewrite the bill so that, instead of allowing gay marriage, it established an ombudsman to handle complaints that the civil union law results in unequal protection. It’s a “where’s the beef” implication, as the administration has been quick to point out that there have only been 13 discrimination complaints under the civil union law since its inception (compared to, e.g., some 1,200 complaints about racial discrimination in that time).
Christie has also been calling for the issue to be decided by referendum. Whether you think referenda are the best way to adjudicate the gay marriage issue (and I tend to) this certainly smells a bit of buck-passing by the governor. But as I’ve said before, it could be a shrewd buck-passing, as it will ensure social conservatives turn out on an election day.