Rep. John Lewis: Civil Rights Should Not Be Decided by Referendum

Rep. John Lewis, one of the most important figures in the Civil Rights Movement, stopped at the Trenton Train Station today with Congressman Rush Holt, Speaker Sheila Oliver, Senate Majority Leader and Blue Jerseyan Loretta Weinberg, DSC Chair and Assemblyman John Wisniewski, and Assemblyman Gordon Johnson to denounce Chris Christie’s call for civil rights to be decided by referendum.

Lewis, on his way with Holt to an event for 150 Trenton teenagers where he was speaking on civil rights history, made the point that should have been obvious to Christie: if civil rights had been decided by referendum in states such as Mississippi and Alabama – where Lewis said he “gave a little blood” on the march from Selma to Montgomery – it would have failed. And the fact that it would have failed would not have made the cause less just. Lewis said that the proper place for civil rights was through legislation, executive action, and the courts – the avenues that, rather than referendums, produced the changes that the mass movement made happen.

Lewis directly linked that fight to today’s marriage equality fight, focusing heavily on the legendary Loving v. Virginia case on interracial marriage and stating that he found it analogous and a basic question of human rights.

Holt and Oliver delivered strong remarks – and Holt deserves particular credit for bringing Congressman Lewis to New Jersey.

Christie’s attempts to backtrack this morning on the remarks brought their own new level of ridiculousness, labeling Reed Gusciora as “numbnuts.” Especially after today’s visit, it won’t be so easy for Christie to shrug off comments that debase the legacy of true leaders like Lewis.

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