The head of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest LGBT-rights organization, released a letter to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) Tuesday asking him to appoint a pro-LGBT senator to the Senate following the death of Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) on Monday.
As governor, Christie is tasked with appointing a successor of the five-term senator.
“On behalf of the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization and our more than 1.5 million supporters across the country, I am writing to stress that part of that consideration must be the candidate’s support for full equality for the thousands of LGBT people living in New Jersey,” HRC President Chad Griffin wrote in his letter to Christie. “By clear and decisive majorities, the people of New Jersey support equality as a state value. A recent poll found that 62 percent of Garden State voters support marriage equality, and this broad support extends to other issues.”
Griffin, citing Lautenberg’s pro-LGBT record during his Senate career and, by extension, those voters who re-elected the senator in 2008, asked Christie to consider appointing a replacement who would be dedicated to ensuring “full equality under the law,” and offered to meet in person with Christie if necessary.
“From basic workplace protections to tackling bullying in our schools to the equal recognition of all marriages, legislation supportive of basic constitutional fairness will assume a central role in the legislative agenda of the coming months,” Griffin wrote. “Please do right by the hundreds of thousands of LGBT New Jerseyans – and the broad majority of the state that supports their equality – and appoint an interim Senator who brings New Jersey’s values and Senator Lautenberg’s legacy of equality and basic fairness back to the halls of Congress.”
HRC’s congressional scorecard gave Lautenberg its top rating on LGBT-related issues, including support for equal marriage rights, an expanded LGBT-inclusive version of the Violence Against Women Act, and co-sponsoring the Uniting American Families Act. He also introduced the Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act, named after a Rutgers freshman who took his own life in 2010, to combat harassment and cyberbullying on college campuses.
Christie has had a mixed record on LGBT issues, supporting strengthening New Jersey’s existing civil-unions law, but vetoing a marriage equality bill that passed through the Democratic-controlled Legislature in February 2012.
Christie has indicated in the past that he would be in favor of allowing a statewide referendum on marriage equality, but supporters oppose a referendum, pointing to the last time New Jerseyans voted on the particular rights of a minority group, in 1915, when, according to The New York Times, a majority of New Jersey men voted against allowing women the ability to vote.
[Photo 1: Gov. Chris Christie. Photo 2: Sen. Frank Lautenberg.]
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