The fact of the matter is, I think people would have been happy to have a referendum on civil rights rather than fighting and dying in the streets in the South.Like New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney, Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver erupted in fury over the idea of putting basic civil rights up for a popular vote:
Gov. Christie better sit down with some of New Jersey’s great teachers for a history lesson, because his puzzling comment shows a complete misunderstanding about the civil rights movement. . . . It’s impossible to ever conceive that a referendum on civil rights in the South would have been successful and brought justice to minorities. It’s unfathomable to even suggest a referendum would have been the better course. . . . Governor –- people were fighting and dying in the streets of the South for a reason. They were fighting and dying in the streets of the South because the majority refused to grant minorities equal rights by any method. It look legislative action to bring justice to all Americans, just as legislative action is the right way to bring marriage equality to all New Jerseyans. The governor’s comment is an insult to those who had no choice but to fight and die in the streets for equal rights.
Oliver appears a bit confused about history herself. If it took "legislative action" to address the problem, isn't that closer to a solution by referendum than by violence? Perhaps what she's thinking is that the legislative action never would have happened if it hadn't been spurred by violence. Christie's opposing suggestion is that putting the issue to a popular vote early on might have removed the need for the violence. It's never easy to know when people must burst out of the system into personal rebellion or even violence in order to protect their essential freedoms, as our host so often suggests is our duty. Oliver sounds like a woman who needs to think about that dilemma more carefully.
My guess is that Oliver really is trying to argue that legislative action sometimes has to be imposed from outside the local jurisdiction, because the local majority can't be trusted to vote for justice for an oppressed minority. Or she may be suggesting that legislators are wiser than the unwashed public that elects them. If she were sorting through her issues more thoughtfully, she might even argue that nationwide majorities are not always trustworthy, and therefore legislative solutions must give way to judicial, Constitutional action if proponents of same-sex marriage are to obtain real relief.
In the meantime, does Ms. Oliver really want to argue that gays should take up arms rather than work with the system to obtain the rights they believe are due to them?
A second wave of twittering followed Christie's calling a gay lawmaker a "numbnuts," presumably a hate crime. I like this Christie guy, even if at one time he didn't have any more sense than to believe in non-heliocentric cosmic climate metaphysics, or at least to try to take advantage of the tax revenues it might generate for his strapped state.