Tag Archive: Freedom to Marry

Q & A with Mike Premo of NJ United for Marriage

Mike Premo, NJ United for Marriage
Website: NJUM.org,
Blog: NJUM’s Blog
Facebook: New Jersey United for Marriage
Twitter: @NJ4Marriage

Since the NJ Legislature passed it and he vetoed it, Gov. Chris Christie – from his extended audition tour for 2016 GOP fundraisers – has been the only thing standing in the way of NJ couples seeing their right to marry respected. What happens if legislators of both parties are free to vote their conscience, in a state where marriage equality is supported? NJ United for Marriage says we’re going to find out. Soon. Republicans Holly Schepisi and Declan O’Scanlon already jumped over; O’Scanlon says there will be more. Over the last few days I talked with NJUM’s new campaign manager, Mike Premo. Two things should be said: (1) Premo’s a long-time friend and foxhole buddy. (2) I’m on Garden State Equality’s board, and they’re part of NJUM. Beyond that, now that I found out one of NJUM’s working with Steve Schmidt, the GOP strategist whose role in vetting Sarah Palin was chronicled in his book and the movie made from it, Game Change (Woody Harrelson plays him). Schmidt’s involvement signals to me that the effort to reach Republicans is serious. Besides, I hear Schmidt does a fantastic Arnold Schwarzenegger.

It was a long talk. I’m in italics. Premo isn’t. Our talk’s on the jump page …

Friends Don’t Let Friends Veto Equality

If you’re on Facebook, you’re probably being inundated with all things Papal this morning. And, if you follow news of Facebook, you’re probably aware that Mark Zuckerberg is hosting a fundraiser for Governor Christie this week in California.

Both Zuckerberg and Facebook have made major strides in the past few years, turning the world’s largest social network into a more open and inclusive place for the LGBT community. But guess what? Friends Don’t Let Friends Veto Equality. That’s why, at 1p today, @GSEquality, @BlueJersey, @DFAaction and allies and friends are kicking off a Twitter Bomb using the Twitter hashtag #UnfriendChristie to let Mark Zuckerberg know that’s not how friends treat each other.

That’s right, the young, hip, tech-savvy billionaire – who famously, publicly married his wife just last year – is raising money for our anti-equality and anti-(you fill in the blank) governor at his Silicon Valley home on Wednesday.

So, how would you like to take a break from news about the Pope to let the Facebook founder know how you feel about his raising money this week for the man who is single-handedly blocking New Jersey from granting me and thousands of others the same freedom to marry he enjoys? The same governor about whose record no progressive – in New Jersey or California should remain silent.

Earlier this month when the news first broke – there was some great pushback against Zuckerberg on Twitter (where #UnfriendChristie briefly trended), on Facebook (where Garden State Equality received historic traffic), in the traditional media (this sweet Wall St. Journal article, and among politicians, with lots of buzz on the Chamber Train Trip. But this week, with the event scheduled for Wednesday, should be even bigger.

And there will be more actions to come all week, leading up to this Saturday’s anniversary of Governor Christie’s veto of marriage equality. But, at 1p today, I hope you’ll join @BlueJersey and friends in a Twitter Bomb using the hashtag #UnfriendChristie to let Mark Zuckerberg know: Friends Don’t Let Friends Veto 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.

 

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  

Civil Rights should not be decided by a Referendum. Period.

The Star Ledger, typically a friendly voice on the subject of marriage equality, went off the rails today in an editorial suggesting the state consider a referendum on “Gay Marriage.” I could not disagree more.

As an initial matter, I wish once and for all that educated people would stop referring to the issue of marriage equality as the right to “gay marriage.” They may as well call it “schmarriage” (as some have). There is no such thing as a right to “Italian marriage” or “Black marriage” or “Hindu marriage” or “Second marriage” – and, it’s insulting in 2012 for the Star Ledger to still be framing the issue that way. Same-sex couples are not seeking a special right to engage in some subset of actual marriage – we are seeking equality in the freedom to marry our partners and have those marriages recognized by the state, no more and no less. Labels matter.

Sen. Menendez Comes Out Strong for Marriage Equality

In a powerful op-ed in favor of marriage equality, which appeared in yesterday’s Star Ledger, Sen. Bob Menendez pledged his support for the Federal Respect for Marriage Act, a bill that would repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). And in doing so, Sen. Menendez spoke in no uncertain terms about the injustice that continues to face same-sex couples who wish to marry in New Jersey and elsewhere:

[F]or me, this comes down to an issue of fundamental fairness. For me, this comes down to the principles I learned as the child of immigrants and that I cherish as an American: that we believe in equality for all people under the law.

Perhaps what is most compelling is the fact, which Sen. Menendez acknowledges in his op-ed, that he voted 15 years ago for DOMA, along with an overwhelming number of his colleagues. But following that vote, the Senator notes: “like tens of millions of Americans, [he has] reflected deeply and frequently about this issue.” That is what has been happening in America, at kitchen tables, holiday meals, community events, and more. And it is something to be applauded. That’s how progress happens.

Menendez became the 32nd U.S. Senator to publicly announce support for the bill, which is also sponsored by 134 members of the House. Indeed, in New Jersey, support from our Democratic Congressional delegation is nearly unanimous. Yet, despite those solid and growing numbers, support for the bill here (and nationally) continues, regrettably, to be primarily from the Democratic side of the aisle.

That’s a shame.  

Same Sex Marriage – An Academic Viewpoint

The Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton has a world-wide reputation as a center of excellence in its field. It boasts such distinguished alumni as Senator Bill Bradley, Governor Brendan Byrne, New Jersey Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, Governor Eliot Spitzer, and Senator Paul Sarbanes. Alumni also include some prominent but disappointing people like Congressman Leonard Lance and Justice Samuel Alito.

As part of its academic mission, the school conducts seminars and panel discussions, some of which are open to the public. Given the enthusiasm and need for marriage equality in New Jersey and across the country, when I saw a seminar entitled “Same Sex Marriage in the United States: Where We Are as a Nation”, I figured it was worth the drive up to Princeton to see what I could learn – and I was not disappointed.

Cory Booker – Faith, freedom & marriage

Freedom to Marry, the national marriage equality group founded by Evan Wolfson, came out today with a group of political voices in favor extending equal opportunities to gay couples to marry, all captured for video. One of those is Newark’s Mayor Cory Booker, a visible advocate here in NJ:

America is about … freedom. And so I think one of the most intimate choices one can make as to who to spend your life with, and to be able to choose someone to be your life partner and proclaim it to the world, that this is my spouse, this is my chosen soul that I’m going to take on the world with…

The mayor also talks about how he won’t marry any couple –  as he is empowered to do for straight Newark citizens –  because he cannot marry couples equally. Links to the rest of the statements, from office holders across the country, can be found here. The videos come with a pledge drive, which you can support here.