On the heels of a poll commissioned by a LGBT rights organization that said the majority of New Jersey voters favor allowing gay marriage, Assemblyman Michael Doherty (R-Washington Township) pushed for his own legislation that would call for an amendment to the state constitution that would allow New Jerseyans to vote on the issue.
“The people of New Jersey should have the final say on this fundamental issue and it’s time to allow their voices to be heard so that we can put this diversion behind us and move forward on real issues that are affecting our residents,” said Doherty in a press release.
Meanwhile, Steven Goldstein – chair of Garden State Equality, which paid for the Zogby poll – took the opportunity to invite Doherty to his own wedding that he hopes to have after legislation permitting gay marriage is passed.
“He’s entitled to his view and I look forward to welcoming him to my wedding in New Jersey in 2009,” said Goldstein. “Honestly, if he’d like to be in the wedding party, he’s more than welcome. I’ll personally buy him any tuxedo of his choosing.”
The poll, which was released yesterday, found that New Jersey voters support allowing gays to marry by a margin of 50% to 42%.
Doherty said that the gay marriage issue was a smokescreen to distract voters from Gov. Corzine’s low poll numbers, a high cost of living, a “back breaking” debt and high property taxes. He said that the issue was raised last year to distract from Gov. Corzine’s highly unpopular – and now dead—asset monetization plan.
“It seems a pattern has emerged where Mr. Goldstein and other funded agitators pop up when necessary to run interference for the Corzine Administration and other Democrats when they are either considering unpopular proposals such as their highly controversial ‘asset monetization’ scheme or an official’s low performance ratings,” he said. “Either way, it’s a constant agitation of society much like former President Bill Clinton’s ‘wag the dog’ antics to keep the heat off of his personal indiscretions.”
Goldstein, who’s gay, married his partner in Canada in 2002, but hopes to get married in New Jersey once legislation is passed in 2009. He said that it’s disingenuous for conservatives to advocate a referendum now, when they used to support going the legislative route. State Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck) has already announced her intention to introduce gay marriage legislation.
Goldstein cast the marriage question as a civil rights issue, and noted that Americans traditionally do not vote on those questions.
“In America you don’t take public referenda on voting rights, women’s rights, the right to have a society free of prejudice. Civil unions are as offensive to gay people as separate facilities would be to other groups based on who they are,” he said.
Moreover, Goldstein argued, his own marriage hasn’t caused any discord in other married couples, and noted that some of the states that allow gay marriage have low divorce rates.
“There are real threats to marriage in this country: the economy, joblessness, poverty. Marriage is not a threat to marriage,” he said, adding that “A ban on marriage equality has as much of a chance ever getting on the ballot as I have in growing to six feet tall by 5 p.m. today.” (Goldstein is 5’8).
Doherty, however, politely declined Goldstein’s wedding invitation in a phone interview after letting out a hearty laugh, preferring instead to engage him in a public forum on gay marriage.
“I appreciate his thinking of me. It’s a very important day,” said Doherty. “But I really think the more important thing for a state legislator to do is discuss public policy.”
But the kind words for Goldstein ended there, with Doherty branding him as an “elitist” who refused to let the public decide. While Doherty said he’d prefer the legislature vote on the issue than to have it decided by judges, he thinks that an important constitutional question ought to be decided by the public.
“It goes to the heart of the question of where constitutional rights come from. Some people would say they come from our creator and the constitution is put into place to protect those god-given rights. For those who say that there is no god, they say they certainly can’t come from government, they should come from the people. That’s all I’m saying here: let the people of New Jersey decide.”