New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie, who nominated the first openly gay justice to serve on the state Supreme Court, made an unusual promise when he said recently the nominee would recuse himself from ruling on same-sex marriage issues.
Christie said Paul Harris, a Republican mayor, has advocated for same-sex marriage, according to a Bloomberg article. “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.”
Same-sex marriage is a hot issue in New Jersey. Christie has proposed a referendum on it, which has sparked controversy. He also has gotten some criticism for his nomination of Harris.
A (Newark) Star-Ledger commentary by Paul Mulshine noted that Harris had sent legislators an e-mail in 2009 urging a vote for same-sex marriage and, according to Mulshine, writing “favorably of one of the most activist of the court’s decisions.”
Mulshine drew an analogy between Harris’ nomination and President George W. Bush’s U.S. Supreme Court nomination of Harriet Miers; Bush was assailed by some critics as putting diversity on the court before qualification. Miers’ nomination ultimately was withdrawn.
When New Jersey’s governor nominated Harris, Christie “spent more time talking about his status as an openly gay man than about his qualifications, which seem to be in league with those of Miers,” Mulshine wrote.
Christie’s recent nomination of Phillip Kwon to the Supreme Court also has drawn fire. If confirmed, Kwon would be the court’s first Asian-American. New York voter registration records have disclosed an earlier Republican Party affiliation, and a Wall Street Journal article was headlined, “Democrats see partisan move in Christie picks.”