You’re Either For It Or Against It

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TPM Reader JZ checks in on what proponents of gay marriage in New Jersey learned there and how it informs the legislative battle over DADT repeal:

DADT debate reminds me in many ways of our efforts in the waning days of the Corzine administration to get a marriage equality law through the legislature and onto the governor’s desk (he wanted to sign the bill before leaving office).

A handful of Republican and Democratic state senators jerked the pro-equality movement around for weeks, professing strong support for the bill, but always hemming and hawing about procedure and complaining that the slightest pressure or agitation on the part of grassroots activists was making it impossible for them to support the bill.

The committee hearings (the bill narrowly cleared the Judiciary Committee) were extraordinary: about nine hours of moving testimony from clergy members, families and activists in favor of equality, countered by a pathetic array of religious crackpots who embarrassed even committed opponents of the bill (example: the moron who dropped a bag of hardware — nuts and bolts — on the witness table and lamely tried to make the case for the biological correctness of heterosexuality). Even the committee chairman, who voted against the bill, could be seen laughing at the anti-equality witnesses.

In the end, four of the five Republicans who were on the fence, and about an equal number of equivocating Democrats, voted “no” or abstained. They never intended to vote for the bill but seemed to have a dim sense of shame about it. They consistently hid behind procedure, grasped at straws for a reason to take a pass on the bill, always wanted to have it both ways. My guess is that Susan Collins is playing the same game.

What we learned in New Jersey was, simply, that you are either for or against civil rights. It’s that simple. If you need to stop and think about it, you probably don’t get it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.
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