TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie proposed two historic firsts for the state Supreme Court by nominating an openly gay black man and a Korean-born law enforcement official to the bench on Monday.
The Republican governor announced the nominations of Bruce A. Harris and Phillip H. Kwon at a Statehouse news conference attended by the nominees and their families.
“This is a monumental day for justice and the most important thing here is that Bruce Harris is eminently qualified to be a Supreme Court Justice,” Garden State Equality chairman Steven Goldstein told 1010 WINS. “Yes, he’s gay, he’s partnered…but he’s qualified.”
Harris is the mayor of Chatham in Morris County. He would be the third African-American to be seated on the court — and the first openly gay member.
Six openly gay justices sit on state Supreme Courts nationwide.
“I am so deeply humbled by this major piece of civil rights news by Gov. Christie,” Goldstein said. “It’s a great thing, and the governor deserves our warmth, our credit, I’m blown away.”
Goldstein admits he was very surprised by the announcement but says the Christie administration has always treated gay community leaders with “warmth and responsiveness.”
Kwon, a Korean-American, works in the Attorney General’s office and lives in Bergen County. He would be the first Asian-American on the high court.
Christie has two vacancies to fill on the court as of March 1.
The current court, made up of five women and two men, all of whom are white.
Christie created a firestorm when he decided not to renominate the court’s only black member, Justice John Wallace, in 2010.
The nominations need confirmation from the Democrat-controlled Senate.
(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)