01/26/2012 07:28 pm ET Updated Mar 27, 2012

Gov. Christie's Same-sex Marriage Referendum Trashes the Right to Love

One of the Republican party's shrewdest politicians just did a really stupid thing: he threw principle under the bus to avoid taking a stand. This was out of character for a man whom many Democrats like myself have admired at times for enacting unpopular but necessary reforms in New Jersey. But only a day after appointing an openly gay person to the N.J. Supreme Court, Governor Chris Christie suddenly yanked the rug out from under pending legislation to approve same-sex marriage and proposed, instead, a public referendum on the issue.

A public referendum? On an issue of civil rights? Are you kidding?

Worse, the normally blunt-speaking Governor offered up a pitifully lame canard for his decision: he expressed his serene confidence that the people of the state would do the right thing as surely, and perhaps even more surely, than the legislature. Oh, please, Governor. Tell us you don't really believe that.

The duplicity of his rationale is insulting. Everyone knows Christie is a really smart guy, plenty smart enough to know that we Americans for centuries have been perfectly happy to inflict pain on our fellow citizens whom we disdain. He knows how happy we were to treat blacks as fractional citizens, and to deny them access to schools. Majority rules, right? He knows how happy we were to deny suffrage to women, who were better suited to cooking and cleaning and tending the kiddies. Majority rules, right? He even knows how happy the majority is to inflict pain on fat people, denying them well-deserved promotions in the workplace and ridiculing them in entertainment venues.

Trust the majority with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Good luck. That's why we have the Bill of Rights, Governor.

In lamenting Christie's proposed referendum, I am not saying I prefer that this matter be left to the legislature. It never belonged there, either. There is no human right more precious or intimate or worthy of protection than the right to love and to marry whomever you fall in love with. The courts of New Jersey (at least) must move immediately to declare and defend that right, once and for all.