Marsha and Louise are two of the best known faces of New Jersey’s marriage equality movement, and they are my friends and fellow board members at Garden State Equality, as are Jon & Michael Galluccio and their 15-year-old daughter Madison, all mentioned below. – promoted by Rosi
Our senator Kip Bateman has presented as an enigma to those of us fighting for marriage equality. Where does he really stand? We met with him on the Friday before the Senate vote to try and gain a better understanding. The morning started out cordial enough, with Sen. Bateman taking us out for breakfast in a local diner he frequents. The senator freely shared that he supported marriage equality, but thought that the legislature was not the correct venue since Gov. Christie would veto it anyway. He talked about his surprise that so many people in Princeton and South Brunswick (the towns he now represents since legislative redistricting) supported marriage equality, and also made reference to his “more conservative” constituents in Somerset and Hunterdon. He mentioned the Pastor of his church, who opposes marriage equality.
We’re hurt and disappointed that our own Senator was opting out of his responsibility by suggesting a public referendum on our rights. And we told him so. We asked him what he pictured when he thought about this vote. He described voters entering the booth to vote the way they vote on other referendums, like bond issues or preservations, proudly stating that the question of marriage equality would be worded in an affirmative manner. He seemed astonished when we advised him that a referendum would result in a costly battle, both financially and emotionally. We provided him with facts:
children no longer allowed to play with their friends or told their gay dads would die from AIDS. (Jon Holden Galluccio talks about some of this in a post about his family’s life in California).
More of Sen. Bateman’s response & a video, below the fold.
Since the Senator denied ever seeing Prop 8 ads, we showed him some. He seemed shocked. We advised him a “Yes” vote on referendum would not be worth the financial cost, divisiveness, hatred and harm to children in NJ, and that he was elected to make decisions regarding difficult issues.
Sen. Bateman asked why marriage equality supporters were in favor of a referendum in Maine, and not in NJ. Maine is different from NJ. In 2009, the legislators and governor of Maine had the courage to pass a marriage equality law. The law was then repealed through a public referendum (put on the ballot via voter petition); thus the only way to regain marriage equality in Maine was through another referendum.
At his request, we later sent him links to other Prop 8 ads, as well as the Assembly Judiciary Committee testimonies by our wonderful daughter, Melissa, and the equally awesome Madison Galluccio. If you juxtapose the two videos, Melissa’s testimony and Madison’s, you get the same message, despite the fact that they are 15 years apart in age: NJ: Please stop telling me I am different and ‘less than.’ Please grant my family (and therefore me) equality. We ended with a plea that he vote “Yes” as a courageous lawmaker should.
We all know the outcome: Despite education and a personal plea, he voted “No”. It appeared to us that his personal conflict was reflected not only in the fact that he was one of the last to post a vote, but also in his NJTV interview after the vote:
Is Kip Bateman an enigma? We don’t think so. We believe it’s clear that he supports marriage equality. What is not clear is the reason that he voted “No.” Does he somehow consider South Brunswick and Princeton to be stepchildren to his more familiar base of Somerset/Hunterdon County, valuing our family’s needs and opinions less? Does he really believe that Mayor Cory Booker, Rep. John Lewis, and now “Marsha and Louise” are unnecessarily creating fear when we discuss repercussions of having the majority vote on a civil rights issue? Does he fear his pastor’s wrath? Is he afraid of being “primaried” or experiencing other repercussions if he goes against the “Republican mandate” as he intimated would happen to Jen Beck and Diane Allen (the two courageous Republicans who stood up for equality)? Only Sen. Bateman can answer these questions with clarity.
On Monday, Senate President Steve Sweeney talked about the angst he felt after his 2009 vote. Perhaps Sen. Bateman is feeling some of that now. Truthfully, on a personal level we like him. He seems too nice and understanding to want us to continue to be second-class citizens. Senator Bateman will have one last chance to do the right thing when the time comes to override Gov. Christie’s likely veto. Only time will tell whether he will find the courage to vote with his conscience for what he believes in: marriage equality.