New Jersey must fight for equal rights

When Vermont became the fourth state in the union to recognize same-sex marriage, a chorus of anger and dismay rang out from the usual right-wing echo chambers. Sean Hannity scoffed, Rush Limbaugh howled and the various Christian family values coalitions issued statements decrying the moral erosion of our once-great nation.

As their hateful dogmas fade faster into obscurity, it is getting easier to ignore these intolerable creeps and the vitriolic nonsense that they spew. But the words of Brian Brown, spokesperson of the seemingly innocuous National Organization for Marriage, remind us that the forces that seek to obstruct our path toward a progressive, secular society are still very much active, and they’re targeting us next.

In the wake of the Vermont legislation’s passage, Brown said, “Obviously there’s a coming fight in New Jersey over same-sex marriage.” He made those comments because public opinion in New Jersey is shifting, just as it is everywhere else in the nation.

While 48 percent of New Jersey citizens now support gay marriage, 43 percent oppose it. It should come as no surprise that younger demographics are overwhelmingly in favor. With these trend lines, support for gay marriage will only increase over time. New Jersey is becoming a battleground state in the fight for equality. So what can Brian Brown do about it?

He can pour millions of anti-gay marriage advertising dollars into New Jersey media markets, which as of last week, has begun. He can urge the older, more politically active generation to contact their lawmakers and demand that the gay marriage bill currently under consideration in the state legislature be rejected (Gov. Jon S. Corzine has said he would sign it). He can hit up big-time conservative donors who have made it their life goal to preserve traditional marriage at the expense of the millions of Americans who love someone of the same sex.

So let Brown take his fight to our cities, our airwaves and our campuses. Let him try to convince us that allowing our gay friends and relatives to marry is going to dismantle the social fabric of New Jersey, just like it presumably has in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Give him a shot at trying to explain why we need an anti-gay marriage amendment added to the U.S. Constitution and why we should enshrine bigotry in our most sacred national text. Have him tell us why the day Vermont legalized gay marriage was “truly a sad day for . this nation.”

Let’s come right back and show him no amount of fear-mongering and religious zealotry is going to stand in the way of equal rights. We can beat him in the intellectual arena, no doubt. But he has a formidable shot in the political one.

The success of Proposition 8 in California demonstrates that we cannot be passive in the struggle against the scourges of intolerance: Brown, Robertson, Coulter, Palin, the Mormon Church and all the others who are trying their mightiest to keep America from entering the 21st century.

Let’s show Brown New Jersey is ready to be a bastion for progress and an example for the rest of the country by rejecting his hateful message. While we’re at it, let’s ask our Republican friends what they think of these backward hysterics, and ask them to join us in opposing it.

You can bring your feckless organization and your nauseating garbage to our state, but you will fail.