Tag Archive: Reed Gusciora

A Marriage Equality Referendum is Still a Bad idea

Assemblyman Gusciora recently proposed a referendum on marriage and various marriage activists are now re-debating this question.

A vote on equality is a bad idea for political and practical reasons.  Leave aside the issue of allowing for a vote on a civil right.  I think that’s a bad thing, but if it were only a theoretical argument over principle, I could be persuaded to do something that got to the desired outcome.  But this is not merely a theoretical issue of principle. A ballot initiative on marriage has 3 major pitfalls.

1. It will bring in tens of millions of conservative and anti-marriage media, staff and organizing dollars during the 2013 election during not only a governor’s race, but when the entire legislature is up for election.  

2. It will bring this money in and bring out a right wing vote, at the very same time we are likely to have the Minimum Wage on the ballot – thus risking not only the Marriage Equality vote, but also risking the vote on the Minimum Wage. People who try to survive on wages of $7.25 suffer fundamental injustice and the cause of justice for them should not be sacrificed on the unlikely chance or correcting injustice for others.

3. It entirely shifts the focus from Christie’s veto of Marriage Equality and instead of the election being a referendum (in part) on the Governor’s bigotry in vetoing Marriage, it is a referendum on our side’s ability to overcome right wing corporate money.  Worse yet, it permits every Republican in the New Jersey Legislature to vote Yes to allow the Referendum, when they voted No on Marriage.  (No wonder they want us to do this!)

There is a plan.  The organizing work in this State and throughout the country is working.  We will win in court, or we will override the Governor’s veto, or we will win with a new Governor.  

The arc of moral universe is long – but yes – it bends toward justice!  We will win this fight, as we have won past fights.  

There is something we should use the ballot box for, however.  We must reward our friends and punish our enemies by only electing true champions of  justice, fairness and equality in 2013.   The truth is, there is someone who is responsible for there not being equality in this State and that is the same person who is responsible for New Jersey having the 47th highest unemployment rate and New Jersey eliminating school breakfast for poor kids and New Jersey cutting women’s healthcare.  That person is Chris Christie and he should be the focus of the 2013 election.  

Fissures & Disagreements on Strategy in NJ’s Gay Rights Movement

Is there a fissure growing in New Jersey’s gay rights movement?

Last month’s marriage equality victories in Maryland, Massachusetts and Maine (and Minnesota’s asterisk victory) sent shock waves into the movement. Seeing new possibilities, rethinking old strategies. It was the voters that opened those states. Garden State Equality (GSE), the well-oiled machine of change not yet realized, solidly rejects the giving this choice to the voters, pursuing the court and legislative routes. But since Election Day, there are new calls for referendum, coming now from people who always opposed it. What’s going on here?

In the past two days, since GSE put out a strongly-worded joint statement with Freedom to Marry and Human Rights Campaign (HRC) rejecting referendum, I’ve had a number of conversations with players at various levels and in various roles in the push for ME in New Jersey. Most of them were off-the-record, at their insistence. While GSE and its media-savvy Chair Steven Goldstein maintain a high-profile, some of the counter-moves of others are only in the formative stage, newly hatched since Nov. 6, but possibly percolating a broader strategy than GSE, to include referendum.

Disclosure: I am a Garden State Equality board member. That doesn’t necessarily give me an inside track on GSE’s moves. And I took it on with the understanding I’d always be free not only to advocate but also to write about this issue. I share the same revulsion for marriage equality referenda that I believe Goldstein does; I joined this movement when I realized my straightness gave me the unearned right to pass judgement on the lives of other people, and isn’t that at the heart of any referendum? But I see my role as only adding my labor to the core work of gay people advocating for their own rights and lives. It’s easy to understand the urgency and imperative that would lead people to consider anything that would let gay couples and families to move ahead as they deserve to.

There’s no question now that New Jersey is ripe for change and ready to support the marriage rights of gay couples in love. We’re a blue state, albeit not always a progressive one. But we watch neighbor states move ahead … New York, Connecticut, D.C., Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts … without the world blowing up, ‘traditional marriages’ busting up, or anybody growing horns. In short, this is normalizing. As it should.

Even among NJ Republicans there’s a readiness – PPP Polling found more Republicans (21%) supporting same-sex marriage than Dems (19%) opposing it. Independents support 54/36%. Same poll found 72% of respondents think they should be allowed to vote on the matter.

And yet. There are many of us who do not believe we should not subject the rights of the minority to the will of the majority. You hear that from civil rights advocates, like former ACLU-NJ Director Deborah Jacobs, Majority Leader Sen. Loretta Weinberg, and ME’s newest champion, Senate President Sweeney.

Garden State Equality

And the anti-equality crowd is clearly losing the hearts and minds. They’re getting nastier, more desperate.  Their dark-cloud, end-of-days ads, which used to scare the bejeezus out of some people, just lay there. And new tactics (Save the notaries … really?) are laughable. People are ready for marriage equality. It’s going to happen.

Reed Gusciora’s turnaround on referendum surprised some, not others. On Monday, I asked Goldstein if Gusciora’s shift was a recognition that there weren’t going to be enough votes for an override of Christie’s veto on ME legislation passed in the Assembly (co-sponsored by Gusciora and NJ’s other gay assemblyman Tim Eustace) and Senate (guided by Weinberg and prioritized by Sweeney). He was brief and direct: “No it does not at all mean that.”

Here is what Gusciora told Blue Jersey:

I think it is ironic that we were given talking points by the same advocates that the majority of the public is in favor of this. Now they want us to duck and cover for a better day. Maybe because I hung out with football players that I’m ready for this fight. This is really about the next generation of gays and lesbians who want us to stand up for their rights today. It’s a poor example to tell them to wait.

Gusciora is not the only person talking this way this week. Star-Ledger editorial headline, yesterday:

To defeat Christie on gay marriage, a popular vote is New Jersey’s safest bet

I’ve heard from several people active for ME that they’re more willing to consider referendum, even if they still believe the majority shouldn’t have the right to decide for others. They’re willing to get past their ethical revulsion at putting their rights up for vote – and the political implications that this is a vote ME-opponent Christie called for – in the face of the practical possibility that it just might win them the rights they deserve: If it worked in these other places, and NJ support for us is strong, then put referendum on the table, they say.

Jon Galluccio, who was briefly named Executive Director of GSE  earlier this year will be spearheading a new organization launching after the new year called New Jersey United for Marriage Equality, which he describes as a “union of NJ forces working for marriage equality,” with all routes considered.

Another practical consideration? Money. Winning an ME referendum in NJ (expensive media market) would cost a lot. But just yesterday, HRC (which signed Goldstein’s joint statement against referendum) posted their study showing donors supporting marriage equality in 2012 dwarfed those who opposed it by a factor of 13 to 1. And their data was collected from Nov. 6 referendum states ME, MD, and MN (and WA, a bill state).

I have not worked out my own feelings about the direction marriage

Force Christie to talk about it

New Jersey United for Marriage Equality  

Fissures & Disagreements on Strategy in NJ’s Gay Rights Movement

Is there a fissure growing in New Jersey’s gay rights movement?

Last month’s marriage equality victories in Maryland, Washington and Maine (and Minnesota’s asterisk victory) sent shock waves into the movement. Seeing new possibilities, rethinking old strategies. It was the voters that opened those states. Garden State Equality (GSE), the well-oiled machine of change not yet realized, solidly rejects the giving this choice to the voters, pursuing the court and legislative routes. But since Election Day, there are new calls for referendum, coming now from people who always opposed it. What’s going on here?

In the past two days, since GSE put out a strongly-worded joint statement with Freedom to Marry and Human Rights Campaign (HRC) rejecting referendum, I’ve had a number of conversations with players at various levels and in various roles in the push for ME in New Jersey. Most of them were off-the-record, at their insistence. While GSE and its media-savvy Chair Steven Goldstein maintain a high-profile, some of the counter-moves of others are only in the formative stage, newly hatched since Nov. 6, but possibly percolating a broader strategy than GSE, to include referendum.

Disclosure: I am a Garden State Equality board member. That doesn’t necessarily give me an inside track on GSE’s moves. And I took it on with the understanding I’d always be free not only to advocate but also to write about this issue. I share the same revulsion for marriage equality referenda that I believe Goldstein does; I joined this movement when I realized my straightness gave me the unearned right to pass judgement on the lives of other people, and isn’t that at the heart of any referendum? But I see my role as only adding my labor to the core work of gay people advocating for their own rights and lives. It’s easy to understand the urgency and imperative that would lead people to consider anything that would let gay couples and families to move ahead as they deserve to.

There’s no question now that New Jersey is ripe for change and ready to support the marriage rights of gay couples in love. We’re a blue state, albeit not always a progressive one. But we watch neighbor states move ahead … New York, Connecticut, D.C., Maine, Maryland, Vermont, Massachusetts … without the world blowing up, ‘traditional marriages’ busting up, or anybody growing horns. In short, this is normalizing. As it should.

Even among NJ Republicans there’s a readiness – PPP Polling found more Republicans (21%) supporting same-sex marriage than Dems (19%) opposing it. Independents support 54/36%. Same poll found 72% of respondents think they should be allowed to vote on the matter.

And yet. There are many of us who do not believe we should not subject the rights of the minority to the will of the majority. You hear that from civil rights advocates, like former ACLU-NJ Director Deborah Jacobs, and from Majority Leader Sen. Loretta Weinberg, and ME’s newest champion, Senate President Sweeney.

The anti-equality crowd is getting nastier, more desperate. They’re losing the hearts and minds, and they know it. Their dark-cloud, end-of-days ads, which once scared the bejeezus out of people, now just lay there. And new tactics (Save the notaries … really?) are laughable. ME is going to happen.  

Reed Gusciora’s turnaround on referendum surprised some, not others. On Monday, I asked Goldstein if Gusciora’s shift was a recognition that there weren’t going to be enough votes for an override of Christie’s veto on ME legislation passed in the Assembly (co-sponsored by Gusciora and NJ’s other gay assemblyman Tim Eustace) and Senate (guided by Weinberg and prioritized by Sweeney). He was brief and direct: “No it does not at all mean that.”

Here is what Gusciora told Blue Jersey:

I think it is ironic that we were given talking points by the same advocates that the majority of the public is in favor of this. Now they want us to duck and cover for a better day. Maybe because I hung out with football players that I’m ready for this fight. This is really about the next generation of gays and lesbians who want us to stand up for their rights today. It’s a poor example to tell them to wait.

Gusciora is not the only person talking this way this week. Star-Ledger editorial headline, yesterday:

To defeat Christie on gay marriage, a popular vote is New Jersey’s safest bet

Some activists are now more willing to consider referendum, even if they still believe the majority shouldn’t have the right to decide for others. They’re willing to get past their ethical revulsion at putting their rights up for vote – and the political implications that this is a vote ME-opponent Christie called for – in the face of the practical possibility that it just might win them the rights they deserve: If it worked in these other places, and NJ support for us is strong, then put referendum on the table, they say.

Jon Galluccio, who was briefly named GSE Managing Director  earlier this year (but is no longer) is spearheading a new organization launching in January called New Jersey United for Marriage Equality, which he describes as a “union of NJ forces working for marriage equality,” with all routes considered.

Another practical consideration? Money. Winning an ME referendum in NJ (expensive media market) would cost a lot. But just yesterday, HRC (which signed Goldstein’s joint statement against referendum) posted their study showing donors supporting marriage equality in 2012 dwarfed those who opposed it by a factor of 13 to 1. And their data was collected from Nov. 6 referendum states ME, MD, and MN (and WA, a bill state).

I have not worked out my own feelings about the direction marriage this should take. Ideologically, I’m opposed to referendum. But I imagine loving couples in Maine, Washington  and Maryland will feel no less married because their fmilies, neighbors and co-workers voted to make it happen. I do think the referendum push forces this issue onto Gov. Christie’s radar. And I wonder if Nov. 6 makes him regret he asked for it.

 

I Blame Reed Gusciora for the LD16 Primary Election Bitterness

Far too many people have bought in to the talking point that Steve Rothman should have run against Scott Garrett even though the bulk of what was the district that he represented still remains in the district where he chose to run.  Conversely, Reed Gusciora has been associated with Princeton for as long as he has been involved in politics, yet when he had the opportunity to move up to the State Senate and take on Kip Bateman, the man who now on two occasions has betrayed and insulted the LGBT community with his statements and votes on marriage equality, he cut and ran to Trenton where his re-election to the State Assembly would be guaranteed, but would also block the ascendancy of another good progressive, Dave DelVecchio of Lambertville, and prevent the Hunterdon County part of LD15 from getting the representation that it rightly deserves.

Considering the narrow margin of loss in LD16, there is no doubt in my mind that if Gusciora had summoned up the guts, which so many people, who were silent at this same time, feel Rothman lacked when he made a similar, but far different decision, to take on Bateman, the entire LD16 team would have won last year.  That said, I do think that while most of the total voters in LD16 are in Hunterdon and Somerset Counties, the additions of Princeton and South Brunswick to this district are undoubtedly what have changed it from a safe Republican district to the competitive district that it has become.

Does this mean that the Democratic nomination should have been handed to Sue Nemeth on a silver platter?  Of course not.  I am a staunch advocate for seriously contested primary elections, but the negative tone of this race, which I attribute mostly, although not completely, to Nemeth has been destructive rather than constructive.  Considering how close Democrats came to winning in LD16 in 2011, I think that the Democratic leadership in the district should have been more strategic in terms of how they approached this election and how it could propel the entire team to victory in 2013.  At the very least, I think that some very important questions should have been asked of both Corfield and Nemeth.

Decriminalize Pot: “The Punishment Doesn’t Fit the Crime”

My object all sublime

I shall achieve in time

To let the punishment fit the crime


– Gilbert & Sullivan: The Mikado

15 Democrats and three Republicans in the Assembly have joined to sponsor a bill to decriminalize possession of up to 15 grams of marijuana. There will be a Judiciary Committee hearing for the bill (A-1465) on Monday at 10:00 AM in the State House Annex. The effort, led by Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-15), already has an impressive number of initial bipartisan sponsors. However, 23 additional assemblypersons are needed to assure passage. The complete list of sponsors so far appears below the fold.

As the Star Ledger points out, “Currently, those caught with small amounts of marijuana for personal use face up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine, in addition to a possible driver’s license suspension and hundreds of dollars in court fees. While possession of more than 15 grams and less than 50 grams constitutes a disorderly charge, possession of 15 grams or less under this bill will only call for a fine and possible drug treatment.

Three members of the Judiciary Committee are already sponsors: Chair Peter Barnes (D-18), Ralph Caputo (D-28), and Michael Patrick Carroll (R-25). You can call or email the other members: Vice Chair Annette Quijano (D-20), Gordon Johnson (D-37), John McKeon (D-27) and Holly Schepisi (R-39).

As Assemblyman Gusciora says, “The punishment really doesn’t fit the crime.”

Shehecheyanu

That’s the Jewish blessing of thanks that is said on special occasions, and the message that Steven Goldstein, Chair of Garden State Equality, sent to his co-religionist opponents of marriage equality at a press conference this afternoon in Trenton.

It was a joyous occasion, after several hours of “debate” in the Assembly chamber – dominated by supporters of marriage equality with their touching stories of family, civil rights, and equality – peppered with contrived rationalization of the status quo from marriage discrimination proponents.

Whether you give thanks with the Jewish prayer, or in some other way, today was an historic day for New Jersey, affirming the tenets of our Constitution.

In the end, the vote was 42-33. We’ll post some of the amazing floor speeches later, but here’s the press conference:



Marriage Equality – For the Record

Following almost seven hours of testimony on Thursday, the members of the Assembly Judiciary Committee went on record with their votes to move the Marriage Equality and Religious Exemption bill to the full chamber.  As in the Senate committee, the vote was along party lines, with some Democrats expressing reservations but ultimately voting for equality while other Democrats were solidly in favor.

The two Republicans on the committee had interesting views and their remarks are worth listening to. It still surprises me how a libertarian like Michael Patrick Carroll can be for discrimination and government intervention in a civil rights issue. His argument comes right out of the Santorum playbook – since there is no societal benefit to equal rights, it’s fine to vote against them.

Freshman GOP Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi appeared torn and indecisive. Her rambling remarks argued both sides of the issue but she ultimately voted for discrimination. I don’t know if she can be flipped, but it would certainly be worthwhile if she could hear from pro-equality constituents. In the arc of the history of the New Jersey Assembly, she’ll go down as having cast her first vote in favor of discrimination. I wonder if she wants this to be the legacy of her political career.

The video is 29 minutes long. If you want to jump ahead, here are the starting times for each speaker:

Gordon Johnson (D) 00:00

Reed Gusciora (D) 02:03

Ralph Caputo (D) 05:58

Annette Quijano (D) 07:40

Holly Schepisi (R) 13:20

Michael Patrick Carroll (R) 21:35

Peter Barnes (D) 22:33

Voting 28:01



Assembly Judiciary Committee Marriage Equality – Post-Hearing Comments

Only Blue Jersey has gavel-to-gavel video coverage of yesterday’s marriage equality hearings at the Assembly Judiciary Committee. I’ll be editing and uploading the more relevant material over the next few days. Some will be frontpaged, some will appear on the sidebar, so be sure to check there, too.

I felt like a witness to history, and someday I’ll be able to tell my grandson that Grampa was there when New Jersey worked to end yet another chapter in institutional discrimination.

Below are post-hearing comments from Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, and Garden State Equality’s Steven Goldstein.

Gusciora is a gentleman. His comments about freshman Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi are generous and conciliatory. I would have been less kind. Schepisi’s first vote in her political career was one to perpetuate discrimination. I’ll post Schepisi’s remarks later, but suffice it to say that although she appeared torn in her decision, she based it partly on the fact that the e-mails she received were 50-3 in favor of marriage discrimination. She touted the all-to-familiar themes of “separate but equal” arrangements for marriage and the old “some of my best friends are gay” line.

Weinberg and Goldstein were in maximum kvell mode after the vote – deservedly so. Unlike the recent Senate hearings, at yesterday’s session everyone who desired to testify was given that opportunity.

Videos are below the fold.

Technical note: One legislator I spoke with had trouble viewing prior videos on his iPad, probably because iPads do not support Flash. I’ve uploaded these videos in QuickTime format. The files are larger and take more time to upload. If anyone has problems with videos, please send direct email to deciminyan@gmail.com

Match up the names

1. Take a bat out on her

2.  She’s a jerk

3.  She’s a liar

4.  He’s a numbnuts

5.  He needs his mouth washed out

Sheila Y. Oliver

Valerie Huttle

Loretta Weinberg

Chris Christie

Reed Gusciora

If you match up all 5, you get a free subscription to Blue Jersey, the best online progressive blog in the nation!