Christie: “People Would Have Been Happy” To Vote on Civil Rights


New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has become well-known for bombastic rhetoric that, while intended to be harsh and grating, has won him admirers. But a statement he made Tuesday about civil rights while calling for a state referendum about same-sex marriage has simply “stunned” black leaders in New Jersey.

Christie seems to think that civil rights should be put to the vote. Said the governor at a town-hall-style meeting in suburban, Republican-learning Bridgewater:

The fact of the matter is. I think people would have been happy to have a referendum on civil rights rather than fighting and dying in the streets in the South.

Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D- Essex County) told Christie he needs, as he does, a “history lesson”:

Governor — people were fighting and dying in the streets of the South for a reason. They were fighting and dying in the streets of the South because the majority refused to grant minorities equal rights by any method. It took legislative action to bring justice to all Americans, just as legislative action is the right way to bring marriage equality to all New Jerseyans.

Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark (in Essex County), whose population is more than 50 percent African-American, and who is not very vocal in speaking out about Christie, said:

I shudder to think what would have happened if the civil rights gains, heroically established by courageous lawmakers in the 1960s, were instead conveniently left up to popular votes in our 50 states.

Assemblyman John Wisniewksi (D-Middlesex County), chairman of the state Democratic Party, said:

“Rosa Parks didn’t get to the front of the bus through a ballot question and Jim Crow laws weren’t repealed by public referendum.”

In defense of his remark, Christie said that “the only way to deal with a civil rights issue is through legislation.” Well, not exactly: As the New York Times notes, the right to same-sex marriage has been generally granted via court decisions or legislative bills. In 2008, voters in California approved Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage. Advocates for same-sex marriage point out that ”almost every one of more than 30 ballot questions on gay rights had failed to broaden them.”

Moreover, the Civil Rights Acts and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed after years of discrimination against African-Americans at the polls. As quotes Jerome Harris, chairman of the New Jersey Black Issues Convention, Christie’s statement reveals “a lack of historical understanding about how the expanding definition of who ‘We the People’ are has happened. Sometimes it takes bold acts of defiance by the minority.”

I routinely wince when Christie talks but his statement that “people would have been happy to have a referendum on civil rights rather than fighting and dying in the streets in the South” has bothered me far more deeply. How does Christie presume to speak for civil rights leaders who understood the need to assert their presence by sitting at lunch counters where they were not allowed because of their race, by standing in protest in the streets?



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Photo with statue of Lincoln in front of the Old Essex County Courthouse in Newark, New Jersey, by Tony the Misfit


Ira L.
Ellie L5 years ago

Better we have a referendum on how fast we can get Christie OUT OF OFFICE!
He's a pig -- in EVERY SENSE of the word.

Elizabeth K.
Elizabeth K5 years ago

Careful thomas, in a few years "white folks" are going to be the minority.

Linda Indyke
Linda Indyke5 years ago

It continues to befuddle me how conservative Republicans are so uncomfortable with the modern world! Christie is not the first Republican to want to bring historic legislation and constitutional amendments back for a re-vote. What the heck is going on in that Party, anyway? Racism? You've got that right! By the way, NJ is no stranger to racism, since I remember at least twice in the 1970's, the small town where I lived experienced cross-burnings when an African-American family tried to move in. The same town was also rather unwelcoming when a priest from India became pastor of the local Catholic Church. Remember this when you vote for President this year!

Kathleen L.
Kathleen L5 years ago

Have you noticed a singlar lack of the knowledge of history amongst Republicans? Did they all sleep in their history classes? They are therir own best argument against santorum's BS about college liberalizing students. its a case of stupifying with the Republicans.

Jane H.
Jane H5 years ago

And how many more gay children must die before Christie comes around??

Bonnie m.
Bonnie mutchler5 years ago

I think it's time we added sexual orientation to the list of those protected under the constitution. Everyone has the right to marriage, etc.

Brian Bertien
Brian B5 years ago

Our rights are written into the Constitution specifically to protect them from this kind of buffoonery.
I can not think of too may things more un-American.

Emily M.
Emily M5 years ago

Of course a white man would have liked a vote on civil rights.

Patrick F.
Patrick f5 years ago

Is Chris Christie really that stupid? Civil rights are written into the constitution, you cannot vote on them. Even if you could, WHO in their right mind would vote against Civil rights?

What is it with these Rethugnicans trying to take America back 200 years? Maybe they should invent a time machine and travel back there, I don't think they would be as happy there as they think they would.

Michael Carney
Michael Carney5 years ago

This Man is an embarrassment to the State of New Jersey, and of Human Beings everywhere..