New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) accused President Obama of “cowardice” and trying to have it “both ways” on marriage equality during a contentious appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Thursday. Christie defended his recent veto of a bill allowing gays and lesbians to marry and reiterated his call to put the question to a popular referendum, arguing, “the Democrats in my state are criticizing me saying my feet are firmly planted on the wrong side of justice. I said yesterday, yeah, my feet are firmly planted right next to President Obama.” “He could have gotten more votes in New Jersey out of Democrats in the legislature — not all of them voted for it –if the President would have taken a stand,” Christie added.
But the Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart challenged Christie’s comparison, pointing out that Obama opposes state efforts to deny rights to gay and lesbian Americans and has ordered his Justice Department to stop defending the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act:
CAPEHART: Governor Christie, I heard you say that you have your feet firmly planted next to President Obama on this issue, but the key difference between you and the President is while you support putting the civil rights of a minority up for a public referendum, the President is certainly not in favor of that.
CHRISTIE: Has he said that, Jonathan? Jonathan, has he said that? I haven’t heard him say that…The President is silent on this like he’s silent on every issue that’s difficult for him. […] Let’s have the President of the United States show some courage, come on this program, look into the camera like I’m looking into the camera, and state his position. He won’t because he wants to have it both ways. I’m not looking to have it both ways, I vetoed the bill. That’s my position. What I’ve offered to the supporters of same-sex marriage is if one of your reasons for why I should have voted signed it was because you’re telling me the majority of the people of New Jersey want it, then prove it. Put it on the ballot and prove it. At least I’m standing up for what I believe in. The President has hidden on this issue, Jonathan, he’s hidden on it….This is the type of cowardice that we don’t want.
Watch the entire exchange:
Capehart went on to defend the notion that marriage equality is a civil rights issue that should not be left to the whims of voters. Civil marriage is “an issue of equality, of equal treatment under the law,” he explained. “It’s an issue of whether — if I were to get married to my partner and we were to have children, that my children would have the same protections that your children have because you’re able to legally marry.” “In that regard, we’re talking overall a civil rights issue and what African Americans continue to struggle with is exactly what lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are struggling with today.”