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NJ Democrats Reject Gay Black Christie Supreme Court Nominee Bruce Harris

New Jersey Democrats have rejected Chris Christie's nomination of out gay Black Supreme Court nominee Bruce Harris by a vote of 7-6 following a four hour hearing, the AP reports:

HarrisIt’s the same margin by which another Christie nominee, First Assistant Attorney General Phillip Kwon, was voted down two months ago.

The Star-Ledger says Harris' rejection was an easy one, given his lack of experience and the possibilityof bias on same-sex marriage:

It is a mystery why the New Jersey Bar Association rated Harris as qualified. The governor said he would have agreed to waive confidentiality and allow the bar to testify, but he didn’t ask for that, which suggests he had little confidence the bar could have built a strong case.

Harris’ decision to recuse himself from the gay marriage case that is headed to the Supreme Court also is troubling. His concern, he said, was that his personal endorsement of gay marriage would undermine public confidence in the court if he were to rule on the case.

But as an attorney, Thurgood Marshall argued many cases on segregation, and as a Supreme Court justice, he voted on many more.

And Harris may have had an ulterior motive — to mollify conservative Republicans who were rallying against him based on his views on gay marriage. If so, that would compromise the court’s political independence.

The political backdrop to this is crucial, as well. Democrats believe Christie aims to end the traditional partisan balance on the court, so Harris faced a steep uphill climb. The governor made it easy for them by nominating a man with such weak credentials.

Watch Christie react with anger to the rejection, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "NJ Democrats Reject Gay Black Christie Supreme Court Nominee Bruce Harris" »


Gay NJ Supreme Court Nominee Will Recuse Himself from Cases Involving Same-Sex Marriage

Last week, NJ Governor Chris Christie nominated two appointments to the state's Supreme Court. One of them, openly gay Bruce Harris, promised to recuse himself from future cases dealing with same-sex marriage, Bloomberg reports:

HarrisThe 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.”

Timothy Kincaid at Box Turtle Bulletin calls it the right decision:

Harris is not recusing himself because he is gay. That, as has been determined by Federal Judge Ware, is as irrational as insisting that he not act on matters involving African Americans because he is black.

Rather, Harris is recusing himself because he has advocated for marriage equality, sending an email to his representatives in which he uses the example of his own life to seek to persuade them to support the cause. And it is a long-held tradition that advocates for causes pledge to recuse on those issues so that their evaluation is based on their fitness for office and not simply be a legislative effort to dictate judicial results.

And while Harris may not be part of the upcoming judicial evaluation as to whether civil unions have met the mandate for equality that the court laid out, his presence on the bench will undoubtedly not go without notice. It is one thing to say that civil unions are “good enough for them”; it is quite another to tell an associate that “civil unions are good enough for people like you.”


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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