As Tom Moran reports in the Star Ledger today, legislators in Trenton are running scared from “the M-word” whether they believe in marriage equality or not. Let’s face it, doing the right thing isn’t always easy. But, now is no time to get cold feet.
Right after Wednesday’s decision, Assemblyman Reed Gusciora pledged to join with Assembly Speaker Pro Tem Caraballo and Assemblyman Brian Stack as a co-sponsor of a marriage equality bill. They were quickly and publicly joined by Assemblymen Jerry Green and Mims Hackett, as other legislators have begun to line up behind the scenes for marriage equality.
But today, Gusciora is quoted in the New York Times as saying that “When you talk about civil rights, sometimes you have to do things incrementally.” I can only hope he was misquoted, because if not, it’s reason for progressives to be disappointed.
The time for incremental change was 1999 in Vermont – before Massachusetts (and Canada and Spain and others) took a stand for full equality, before polls revealed strong support for marriage equality in New Jersey, and before our Supreme Court declared that same-sex couples are entitled under our constitution to equal treatment.
Separate is not equal. Chief Justice Deborah Poritz made it about as plain as it could be when in her dissent, she asks us to imagine if the response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1967 decision striking down laws banning interracial marriage was as some propose today. Tom Moran again:
Imagine if we told those couples they were entitled to all the legal rights, but that states were free to label their unions as something less than marriage
It would have been outrageous then, and it is absurd now.
Now is not the time to repeat mistakes from the past – when we used to pretend that “separate but equal” was ok. Now is the time for our elected leaders to do the right thing, because they know it’s right. That’s what defines leadership.