Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) said Thursday that he was offering gay marriage advocates the "bargain of their life" by working to have the issue of equal marriage rights decided through a referendum rather than supporting a bill in the state legislature that would legalize them.
"I've called upon every Republican in the state legislature to vote to put it on the ballot. Well, you need three-fifths to put it on the ballot. The Republicans have two-fifths in the legislature. So that means the Democrats only need to come up with one-fifth of the legislature," Christie said at a town hall meeting in Denville, N.J. "This is the bargain of their life. I'm giving you two-fifths! And the polls they show me say that if it goes on the ballot, it will lose. How much more magnanimous can I be? What else do you want me to do? Go campaign for it too? Look, I'm doing the best I can here!"
(Video above via Think Progress)
Christie has been grappling with the same-sex marriage issue over the past few weeks. He's promised to veto any legislation that would legalize such unions, instead claiming that it should be put up to a vote by the people of New Jersey. He's also argued that it shouldn't be the responsibility of government to handle social issues at this time.
Last month Christie drew sharp criticism for claiming that civil rights leaders would have longed for the opportunity to put equal rights up to a vote. He later apologized after a number of political figures, including Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), an icon of the civil rights movement, argued that the public wouldn't have supported such a referendum, and that legislative action was necessary to spur the change.
While a recent poll showed a majority of New Jersey residents supporting gay marriage, as Bloomberg points out, ballot questions on gay marriage, while somewhat common of late, have been entirely unsuccessful. Voters have rejected same-sex marriage rights in all 31 attempts, according to Freedom to Marry, a New York-based marriage equality organization.
On Thursday, a state Assembly judiciary committee approved the legislation to legalize gay marriage, sending it to the full Assembly for a vote on Feb. 16. The state Senate is set to take up the legislation on Feb. 13.