February 16, 2012
The Matthew Shepard Foundation is disappointed that Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey has promised to veto marriage equality legislation that has passed the state Legislature. Despite the state Senate affirming equality on Monday with a vote of 24-16 and the state Assembly doing the same today 42-33, Gov. Christie believes that he will best serve the people his state by denying loving, committed same-sex couples the right to marry.
Gov. Christie promised to veto the legislation before the session began in January, and has stated that the Legislature should work on things that matter to all New Jerseyites — suggesting that the ability to marry the person they love is not important to those in committed same-sex relationships as well as their family and friends. This veto also ignores the positive economic impact that equal access to marriage would have; Iowa saw a $12 million increase in its economy in its first year of marriage equality. While Gov. Christie has stated that he would like to see the people of his state vote on this issue, the rights of a minority should never be put to a vote.
“Every meaningful advance in civil rights in this country’s entire history has come either from the legislative or judicial branches through our constitutional system of government,” said Jason Marsden, executive director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation. “An America that routinely put civil rights on the ballot would have probably had to endure many more decades of slavery, unequal suffrage, segregation and a host of other forms of discrimination. When legislatures have the courage to solidify our freedoms in law, throwing that open to a host of interest groups and a mountain of negative TV ads is a terrible response and needlessly traumatizes countless families whose dignity and equality at stake.”
Also missing from this debate are three separate studies by the American Psychology Association in January 2009 that describe the negative effects of equal marriage debates. One qualitative study, “Marriage Amendments and Psychological Distress in Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual (LGB) Adults,” surveyed 1,552 lesbian, gay and bisexual adults from 50 states and the District of Columbia. The study documented increased “minority stress,” the term for chronic social stress experienced by minorities as a result of social stigmatization, as well as more general psychological distress. A Marriage Equality USA report from January 2009 found that 45% of people under 18 years old reported personally experiencing homophobia, hate speech, threats or violence during the Proposition 8 campaign in California.
The Matthew Shepard Foundation is saddened by Governor Christie’s choice to prevent New Jersey from becoming the eighth state in the nation to allow marriage equality for loving, committed same-sex couples. LGBT residents of the Garden State and their friends, families and allies deserve better from their state’s leadership.