There are no more excuses. For those who look to the 1960s with forlorn nostalgia, wishing they could have come into political and intellectual fruition at a time of such momentous social upheaval, shake off that misplaced malaise and join the movement rapidly taking shape all around you. For those who sit idly by while your fellow students organize and actualize, turn off your monitors and turn on your minds. For those who can’t tell the difference between obstructionism and neutrality, you are the reason these provocations must be written. This is a call to action.
We are at a pivotal moment in the civil rights struggle of our era, and we must take ownership over whether it succeeds or fails. As residents of New Jersey – a stone’s throw away from the state capital – we can have more of an impact than anyone else in the nation in improving the lives of our LGBT friends and relatives.
Yes, New Jersey is the battleground state in the fight for gay rights. Legislation that would legalize same-sex marriage in our state is currently stalled in the Assembly Judiciary Committee, and by all accounts, will come up for a vote after the gubernatorial election this November. Win or lose, Governor Jon Corzine has pledged to sign any such bill, should it reach his desk. Republican Chris Christie, the challenger, says he would veto it. Thankfully, even if he wins, we won’t have to find out if Christie is bluffing; if all goes according to plan, the bill should be passed during the lame duck session.
Formally titled the Civil Marriage and Religious Protection Act, the bill’s primary co-sponsor in the lower legislative chamber is Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, who represents the College.
Equality does not end with marriage—far from it. Even in the event of the bill’s passage, serious efforts will still be needed to ensure that LGBT people of all stripes are treated fairly. But the passage of marriage equality legislation would be the most tangible way in which the state could provide gays and lesbians with civic affirmation and respect. There is nothing more fundamental than to have the choice of marrying whomever one loves, and to have that relationship sanctioned and codified by society at large.
By our efforts, future generations of gay and lesbian children might not have to wallow in the shadows of the closet—their psyches in tatters. They will instead see that the most basic institution of family and love is available to them, and to anyone.
Let us not tolerate the irrationality of the opposition. Shame on those who would invoke their own particular conception of God in opposition to equal rights, and shame on those who would hedge their criticism of such individuals for fear of offending their religious sensibilities. This is not a time to tread lightly–livelihoods are at stake. This is a time to stand firm, stand united, and demand equality now.
Where do Republicans stand?
Younger conservatives seem to be philosophically at odds with the “Family Values” pontificating that has long characterized the Republican Party’s Evangelical base. Partially because Republicans of our generation know more gay people, and partially because they increasingly consider themselves social libertarians, anecdotal evidence points towards a greater acceptance of gay rights by today’s young conservatives. As such, we enjoin the College Republicans to unite with the chorus of other campus organizations calling for marriage equality in New Jersey. Where, as a group, do they stand–and will they stand on the right side of history?
The Defense of Marriage Act
Signed into law by Bill Clinton in 1996, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) prohibits recognition of same-sex unions on a federal level. Gay couples whose marriages have been legally sanctioned in California, Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and other jurisdictions may not receive the same federal tax benefits, immigration rights, and other privileges afforded to heterosexual couples. On September 15, 2009, a bill to repeal DOMA was introduced in the House of Representatives. It currently has over 90 co-sponsors, including Rep. Rush Holt, who represents TCNJ. President Obama says he would sign the bill. For information on calling your representatives in Congress to support the rescission of this discriminatory legislation, contact Perspective Executive Editor Matt Hoke (email@example.com).
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The National Organization for Marriage, headquartered in nearby Princeton, wants to make sure New Jersey does not enter the 21st century. The following is an excerpt from an August e-mail sent out by the organization: “We’ve already promised to raise $500,000 and use it for a primary challenge to any GOP senator in New York who betrays his constituents by voting for gay marriage. Do New Jersey politicians need a similar warning?” This is the same organization that heralded former Miss California Carrie Pejean as the face of the anti-gay marriage movement. Let’s make sure these people do not succeed in our state.
Heather Lemley, president of PRISM, on her organization’s approach to gay rights: “We on the exec-board spent a lot of time discussing the direction we were going to take. Our board has ten members, so it can be difficult to find a direction or an opinion that meets the needs of us all. For example, I am personally totally open and into activism. But we have several closeted members, and we just try to help them work through finding their new sense of themselves. If members want to become more social, we’ll become more social. If they want more activism, we’ll do more activism. “
Rebecca Baum, another member of the club, explains: “There’s a lot of people sort of floating around PRISM. People who have been to one or two meetings, and then drift away, maybe come back once in a while for the big events. I’m like that–I mainly just go to events. There are different reasons people drift, but a lot of people go to meetings and see that it’s more about being friends with the people in the club than getting out and fighting for equal rights. There’s nothing wrong with the way PRISM is set up, and it needs to be there. But for a lot of people–they want something else… Not to completely knock PRISM, but actually I think the whole idea of having a separate community for LGBT people is kind of separatist. In times like this, when we’re on the verge of some big changes, it’s not the right method. Not only should the community be getting out there, but it needs to link up with people who are gay, or not gay, or just politically-inclined people who agree. Some kind of networking, at least…”