Gay Marriage Debate Takes Unexpected Turn As Gov, Assemblyman Do Battle

TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — The gay marriage debate in New Jersey is heating up and has fueled plenty of name-calling.

On Monday, Gov. Chris Christie referred to an openly-gay state lawmaker as “numb nuts” after that Democratic Assemblyman compared him to two former segregationist governors from the South.

Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon), who is a sponsor of marriage equality legislation in the Garden State, was upset by Christie’s suggestion that gay marriage should be a ballot question instead of being legislated in Trenton.

Christie was also criticized for saying “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.”

Gusciora responded to Christie’s suggestion, saying it was “very disturbing.”

“Govs. Lester Maddox and George Wallace would have found allies in Chris Christie over efforts by the Justice Department to end segregation in the South. It took a lot of bravery by a lot of people, including elected officials, to stand up for what was right and protect equal rights in this nation,” Gusciora said in a statement last Thursday.

For his part, Christie said those comments were misconstrued and that it was clear such an option would not have been available for those fighting for justice during the Civil Rights movement in the 1960’s because the “political climate in the South didn’t give them the option.”

“You have numb nuts like Reed Gusciora, who put out a statement comparing me to George Wallace and Lester Maddox. Now, come on guys, at some point, you’ve got be able to call B.S. on those kind of press releases,” Christie said.

Gusciora took the “numb nuts” label in stride and apparently wasn’t all that offended.  Instead, he chose to focus on the topic of gay marriage during an interview with 1010 WINS on Monday.

“I’ll take the governor’s comment as Jersey talk for a term of endearment. But nonetheless, by not enacting marriage equality in the state, you render gays and lesbians to second-class citizens,” Gusciora said.

Gusciora said he believes Christie “knows better,” but is “auditioning for the vice presidency.”

“The governor has said that segregation law should’ve been put up for the ballot, but back then, had it been put to the ballot, I think people in the South would have overwhelming supported the segregation laws,” Gusciora said.

Christie has vowed to veto gay marriage legislation that is currently under consideration in the state Legislature.

What do you make of the name-calling?  Do you think New Jersey will adopt gay marriage legislation?

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