Christie Says Gay Supreme Court Nominee Won’t Rule on Same-Sex Marriage

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said his pick to be the first openly gay justice on the state Supreme Court won’t rule on issues involving same-sex marriage.

Christie, a first-term Republican, also said critics, including Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, one of two openly gay New Jersey legislators, are “numbnuts” for comparing him to segregationists for comments he made about civil rights.

The governor last week proposed a referendum on gay marriage. Democratic lawmakers said the issue is a matter of civil rights and shouldn’t be decided by voters. Christie drew criticism from Democrats when he said that “people would have been happy with a referendum on civil rights rather than fighting and dying in the streets of the South.”

Christie expanded on that statement today, saying that in the political climate of the 1960s, no referendum for civil rights would have passed. He said those pushing for same-sex marriage are touting popular support, a message he said contradicts opposition to a referendum.

Christie’s nomination last week of Bruce Harris, 61, a Republican and mayor of Chatham, came a day before the governor pledged to veto a same-sex marriage bill that Democrats say they have the votes to pass.

Gay Marriage

The governor, 49, said today that Harris told him that he has advocated for gay marriage personally and as a politician.

“If confirmed to the court, he would recuse himself from that matter because he did not want there to be the appearance of bias on his part on that issue,” Christie told reporters. “My perspective on that issue was to put it aside because he’s not going to rule on that.”

The governor also said critics including Gusciora, a Democratic sponsor of the gay-marriage bill, are “numbnuts” for comparing him in prepared statements to segregationists.

“C’mon guys -- you’ve got to be able to call B.S. on those kinds of releases,” Christie said to reporters in Trenton.

Democrats, who control both the Senate and Assembly, have made the gay-marriage issue a top priority in 2012. Two years ago, Democrats failed to pass a gay-marriage bill, even as then- Governor Jon Corzine, a Democrat, promised to sign it.

Corzine enacted a measure in 2006 to allow civil unions, after the state Supreme Court ordered lawmakers to extend marital rights to gay couples. The law is being challenged in state court by Lambda Legal, a national gay-rights advocacy group, which argues that it doesn’t provide the same benefits and protections as marriage.

To contact the reporter on this story: Terrence Dopp in Trenton at tdopp@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Tannenbaum at mtannen@bloomberg.net

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