Bruce Harris | Chris Christie | Law - Gay, LGBT | New Jersey | News

Governor Chris Christie Appoints Openly Gay Man to the New Jersey Supreme Court

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has appointed an African-American, openly gay, Republican mayor and an assistant attorney general to the state Supreme Court.

Christie nominated Phil Kwon, who worked under Christie when he was U.S. attorney, and Bruce Harris (pictured), who was elected mayor of Chatham Borough in November. They would replace former Justice John Wallace, who Christie declined to reappoint in 2010, and Justice Virginia Long, who faces mandatory retirement next month.

HarrisGarden State Equality Chair and CEO Steven Goldstein left a flabbergasted note on Facebook:

"A few minutes ago, just before announcing his two new Supreme Court nominees, Governor Christie called me on my cell phone to tell me he is nominating Bruce Harris to the New Jersey Supreme Court. Bruce will become the first openly LGBT person in history, and the third African-American person in history, to serve on the New Jersey Supreme Court. Most importantly, Bruce is eminently qualified to be a Supreme Court justice.

"As I told the Governor right then and there, you could have picked me up off the floor.

"When I met with Governor Christie in 2010 at his request, he told me that though we would differ on some issues like marriage equality, he viewed the LGBT community as an important part of New Jersey, and that he wanted his Administration to have a good working relationship with Garden State Equality. That has been the case every step of the way. Since Governor Christie took office, his Administration has treated us with warmth and responsiveness. Yes is yes, no is no, and we’ll get back to you means they get back to you faster than you thought, usually with invaluable help. To be clear, the Governor and his staff were invaluable in helping us pass the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, the nation’s strongest anti-bullying law that the governor signed in January 2011.

"No one’s asked me to say any of this – I am simply giving credit where credit is due, too rare in political life.

"Now, as for the marriage equality bill: The Governor and I didn’t discuss that in our phone conversation. I recognize, and caution everyone, that it would be unwise to read any change here in the Governor’s position on marriage equality; he has said in past months and years that he would veto the bill, and we take him at his word. We will fight hard every minute of every day to win marriage equality in New Jersey. Nothing will deter us.

"But again, right now, that doesn’t mean we should not give credit where credit is due. Today, the Governor has made civil rights history, and on behalf of all of us at Garden State Equality, I extend to him our most profound appreciation."

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  1. A most interesting development. This serves to underscore what a complex and slippery character Christie is.

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Jan 23, 2012 12:10:20 PM

  2. I guess I should be happy for the "openly gay" aspect but I'm at a loss to understand how any gay person could be a registered Republican. Kudos to Christie for being bold enough to appoint an openly gay black man. Quite rare.

    Posted by: OS2Guy | Jan 23, 2012 12:11:30 PM

  3. A black gay Republican? Why not just join the tea party while he's at it?

    Posted by: MARCUS BACHMANN | Jan 23, 2012 12:12:01 PM

  4. Kudos to Governor Christie and congrats Justice Kwon.

    Posted by: Javier | Jan 23, 2012 12:16:07 PM

  5. This is good. But I expect him to veto gay marriage, and this is a perfect way to head off anti-gay accusations. He can point to this. I think this is calculated.

    Posted by: Greg | Jan 23, 2012 12:16:45 PM

  6. I meant congrats Justice Harris.

    Posted by: Javier | Jan 23, 2012 12:19:01 PM

  7. A gay black man who chooses to align himself with the Republican party is clearly mentally ill and therefore not qualified for ANY position that requires critical thinking.

    Posted by: MARCUS BACHMANN | Jan 23, 2012 12:21:54 PM

  8. Wow, Steven Goldstein definitely has a lot of nice things to say about a person who has flat out said he will veto gay marriage in NJ. I just hope that when Christie vetoes the bill, Garden State Equality doesn't start making excuses for him.

    Posted by: KP | Jan 23, 2012 12:23:27 PM

  9. This is designed to get past an impasse he has getting his nominees voted on in the state senate. The Democrats have blocked all of his nominees, but it might look bad if they do so now.

    Posted by: anon | Jan 23, 2012 12:27:17 PM

  10. Complex and slippery, I love it.

    Posted by: John Normile | Jan 23, 2012 12:28:52 PM

  11. I don't know much about Mayor Harris, but I do know Chatham Borough is an intensely Republican part of New Jersey. I'm more leery that the mayor of such an extreme part of NJ was selected for the Supreme Court than anything else

    Posted by: LetSodomRing | Jan 23, 2012 1:00:12 PM

  12. There's a glimmer of hope when things like this happen. It's nice to know that there are some Republicans with OUT an agenda of Hate!
    I appreciate when any barrier is broken, either in a state or Federal office. I am 75, and believe me, I have seen progress in gay rights, sadly it came at a snails pace. Someday we will get equal rights, however until that time, it's nice to know that not all Republicans are Right Wing or tea-baggers. Thank you Governor Christie... you are a mensch!

    Posted by: jerry Pritikin | Jan 23, 2012 1:13:28 PM

  13. Being gay ought not to be a party issue. This kind of news is wonderful, and a harbinger of the post-political world for gay people that will eventually come.

    Posted by: Dan | Jan 23, 2012 1:17:45 PM

  14. Seems like a lot of praise for just nominating someone who is openly gay. What are the nominee's views on gay right issues. There are alot of gay people who do not support gay marriage rights, hate crimes laws, anti-discrimination laws, etc. This could be a very bad appointment for the gay people in New Jersey depending on this man's judicial beliefs.

    Posted by: travshad | Jan 23, 2012 1:49:20 PM

  15. If this develops like I think it will - with him vetoing marriage equality - this is a complete slimeball, calculated move. Politics at its worst.

    Posted by: jj | Jan 23, 2012 1:53:41 PM

  16. @JJ - Of course this is a calculated move, but it is HARDLY "politics at its worst." I admire Goldstein's statement for acknowleging this fact.

    Politics is a continual dialectic -- an ongoing dialog among those of different views. At its BEST, politics is all about the art of calculated moves, balancing one set of interests against another and finding compromises. In the intense partisanship of the last 20 years, people seem to have forgotten that the system is set up so that one side never completely wins -- it's all about finding a middle way that most of us can live with even if we're all a little disgruntled.

    In a world where 40 years ago, gay men could be disqualified from being admitted to the bar on moral grounds and where 60 years ago black men had great difficulty even attending college, a Republican governor's nomination of a black, gay man to the Supreme Court of New Jersey is worthy of note.

    It should also be fought against by every Democrat in New Jersey, just as you would fight the nomination of any Republican to the NJ Supreme Court -- that's what real equality is.

    Posted by: buster | Jan 23, 2012 2:17:38 PM

  17. Instead of political second guessing, name-calling, what would actually be helpful is an analysis from our resident legal mind. Who is this guy and what's his record like?

    I'm too am skeptical of any gay, black man who would call himself a republican, but I'd like to know some facts before I vilify him.

    Posted by: dms | Jan 23, 2012 2:25:14 PM

  18. Here we go again, with the commentors around here shooting the gay community in the foot and exhibiting their own intolerances.

    Christie is only doing this for political reasons, he doesn't really believe this man to be good for the job. The justice is black and gay, and a republican, therefore he is "mentally ill," etc...

    Anyone who doesn't fall in line with the mainstream gay worldview seems to be anathema to the gay community. You bitterly complain about the hatred and biases of others, and then display your own without the slightest recognition of the irony.

    Worst of all, you tend to make enemies out of your friends acting this way.

    For people who rant about inclusiveness, and--for example--cite that as the reason for including transgender under the LGBT umbrella, a lot of you seem awfully ready to be fairly exclusive in attitude.

    Posted by: Jack | Jan 23, 2012 3:04:30 PM

  19. Even if Christie veto's the marriage equality bill if passed, I've read that after 45 days, it can become law Vetoing it allows Christie to avoid being bashed by the marriage equality haters (NOM et al) and the hardliners in the GOP. Christie supports civil unions but most republicans don't even want that. It's quite possible Christie supports marriage equality personally, but like many in his party, can't be seen to be supportive let alone signing it into law at the cost of his career, just like Obama can't declare support as President, at least not in this hate ridden political climate.

    Posted by: Robert in NYC | Jan 23, 2012 3:04:52 PM

  20. Jack: Your second paragraph, I agree with. The rest, not so much.

    Posted by: Matthew Rettenmund | Jan 23, 2012 4:29:38 PM

  21. Hard as it may be to believe, even in the recent past there were a number of Republicans in the Northeast who were decent people -- Lincoln Chafee, Jim Jeffords, Lowell Weicker, Bill Weld, to name a few, even though most were driven out of the party, and even Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe remain largely civilized.

    Of course, all of this notwithstanding, it STILL makes no sense for someone who is gay OR Black, let alone both, to be a Republiscum today.

    Posted by: EdA | Jan 23, 2012 10:36:45 PM

  22. more republican window-dressing?

    i hope the guy's not a member of GOProud...

    Posted by: h | Jan 24, 2012 2:09:26 AM

  23. A gay black republican. Given the mindset of the present day republican party that makes about the same sense as being a gay black klansman.

    Posted by: Jack | Jan 24, 2012 11:29:31 PM

  24. Most definitely a political move all the way.

    Posted by: RaMe | Jan 26, 2012 6:05:48 AM

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