Marriage equality is heating up in New Jersey, and that may prove a problem for Chris Christie. The Republican governor, who vetoed a marriage bill passed by the legislature, complained that the Supreme Court ruling striking down DOMA was “judicial supremacy.” By all accounts, Christie is the only reason that same-sex couples can’t get married New Jersey, the non-equality state with the highest level of public support for marriage equality. Christie wants the issue turned into a ballot measure, so that his presidential ambitions won’t be harmed.
State Democrats, however, are pushing anew to override Christie’s veto. To do so, they will need to pry loose a few Republican legislators. Senate President Stephen Sweeney is calling on Republicans to “vote their conscience.” Sweeney also claims that several Republicans have told him privately that they would like to support marriage equality, but that Christie intimidated them to oppose it. (Christie responded that he talks to legislators but isn’t “the one down there pushing the buttons.”) Sweeney is hopeful that the Supreme Court decision will give enough Republicans the cover they need to switch sides.
Christie seems to be trapped in a short-term play while looking at the long-game. If he is interested in running for president in 2016, he needs to shore up his conservative credentials. But three years is a long-time in the marriage equality fight, and it’s hard to see how Christie can stop the momentum in his state. If the legislature can’t get it’s act together, there are still the courts, where a challenge to the ban is underway. Simply not having his fingerprints on a marriage equality law is not going to satisfy conservatives. Christie needs to affirmatively try to stop it.
And ultimately, that’s a losing battle. If you think the Republican party is likely to nominate a presidential candidate in 2016 who presides over a state with marriage equality, think again. Ballot measure, veto override, court ruling: it all boils down to the same thing. Assuming his re-election, Chris Christie will be governor of New Jersey when marriage equality becomes law. Try explaining that to GOP base.