In a widely published OpEd piece, Rob Eichmann, the GOP State Committeeman from Gloucester County, questioned why the the State Legislature’s Democratic leadership has made gay marriage their top priority of the year.
Assembly Minority Conference Leader Dave Rible says the Democrats putting the issue on the front burner is a “slap in the face to the guy on the unemployment line.”
Both men have a point.
Garden State Equality, the gay rights organization behind the push for same sex marriage, boasts of 86,000 members on its website. That makes them, they say, the largest civil rights organization in the state.
That 86,000 number is questionable.
Steve Goldstein, Chair and CEO of the GSE, told MMM that they consider any person who takes two affirmative actions for equality to be a member. How they track that, he wouldn’t say. I’m pretty sure they consider me a member. Goldstein was aware that I signed up for their email list this week. I told him that I noticed that shortly after I signed up that the the number changed from 85,000 to 86,000. “I promise you, Art, we’re not counting you as 1,000 members.”
Goldstein finally acknowledged, sort of, that the membership claim is based upon a combination of their email list of 70,000 plus the 17,200 facebook friends they have, less a fudge factor to eliminate overlaps. Given that there is a facebook plug in on the GSE page, the fudge factor should probably be more than 1,200.
Even if GSE’s membership numbers were accurate, they would be representing less that 1% of New Jersey’s population.
The number of same sex couples who have committed to each other in the form of civil unions is a more reliable indicator of just how big this “civil rights” problem is.
According to Daniel Emmer, spokesperson for the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, 5,790 couples have been joined in civil unions since 2007 when the legislation designating the unions become effective. That’s 11,580 people, statewide, that this issue impacts directly, if we generously assume that none of those unions have been dissolved by divorce. Do they call it divorce?
One might conclude that Goldstein’s political skills are remarkable. He has managed to make his small, be it 11,580 or 86,000 people, constituency’s concern the top priority of our state government during a time when our economy is anemic, municipal governments are making significant changes to balance their budgets and our urban schools are not educating their students. Unemployment and foreclosures are not our top priority. Another generation of minority students are not getting educated, and Steve Goldstein has managed to make same sex marriage the most important issue of the State Legislature.
Or has he?
Goldstein has been played by the Democrats before. Jon Corzine, while he was governor got Goldstein to agree to back off the same sex marriage issue during the 2008 presidential election cycle and the 2009 gubernatiorial election cycle. Corzine made passionate speeches before gay audiences about how important their rights were. He was blowing smoke.
Are the Democratic leaders of the legislature playing Goldstein again? I think they are.
The Democrats and their special interest donors want nothing to do with Governor Christie’s agenda for this year. They want to raise taxes, not lower them. They don’t want to reform education. They don’t want to reform the civil service system so that municipalities can lower their costs and taxes.
The Democrats don’t want Christie to be an effective spokesman for Mitt Romney, especially if Romney wins the GOP presidential nomination.
That’s what this is about for the Democratic leadership. Avoiding Christie’s agenda and changing the public conversation. It’s not about civil rights and benefits for Goldstein’s small constituency.
Whether or not it’s really about civil rights for Goldstein and GSE is another question which will be the subject of a future post.