NJ SENATOR LESNIAK ON SAME-SEX MARRIAGE OPPONENTS & THE FUTURE (EXCLUSIVE)
More with Senator Lesniak, author of the new book “What’s Love Got To Do With It? The case for same-sex marriage”. In this extended interview, the Senator discussed his opponents, the Catholic Church and the outlook for same-sex marriage in New Jersey…
TBP: Why did you choose same-sex marriage as an issue to take on politically?
Senator: I have become more aware of what we do to each other. How we treat and perceive each other is important.
And I have to admit it is somewhat of a revolt of mine against the Catholic Church, of which I am still a member and which I am so disappointed in.
I think quite frankly the Catholic Church has done a lot of damage through its history and this is another example of it being on the wrong side of what is right.
I am hesitant to say that because I am aware of all the good the Church does for many poor people throughout the world.
I was also surprised and frustrated by my fellow legislators’ inability to do the right thing and recognize it was not difficult decision.
The public, for the most part, does not give a damn about same-sex marriage. The people of New Jersey say “I am not in favor of it but I do not care. If that is what gay people want, then let them do it. It is not going to affect me. Why should I care?”
Senators Kip Bateman and Jen Beck, quite frankly, were pressured by Governor Christie not to vote for the bill.
Joe Cryan, assemblyman majority leader, congratulated the effort we made and told us we “left everything out on the field” meaning we did everything we could and we should feel good, even though we did not win.
TBP: People on both sides of this issue are so passionate. How do you feel about the opposition?
Senator: When someone knows voting for the bill is the right thing to do but votes “no” because of the politics of it – that is the biggest disappointment. That goes beyond this issue to the substance of the person.
The people who are just on a public policy-basis opposed? It does not affect me because they just have not evolved.
I actually believe a lot of the political opposition comes from the politicians who just want to take advantage of the issue.
Take a look at Newt Gingrich. Take a look at his marital history. His opposition has nothing to do with the merits of the issue at all. It just has to do with him taking advantage of the politics of it.
I think the politicians who are using same-sex marriage issue as a wedge issue for their own personal benefit are ultimately the worst offenders.
TBP: How would you explain this issue to a conservative senior citizen in your church or another demographic that just cannot wrap their heads around the issue?
Senator: That is a good question because I wouldn’t try. Anything I say is not going to change their opinion. It would be an exercise in futility and that is okay. I understand that.
What we need to do is get in the hearts and minds of legislatures because these are men and women who should understand the issue but do not.
My parents would not get it but on the other hand they would not say I am going to hell for supporting the issue either.
TBP: Where are we now in the evolution of same-sex marriage as an issue in New Jersey?
Senator: Every civil rights issue goes through this process. It is a process. We have gone through this before.
In the early 1920s New Jersey voted two to one against giving women the right to vote and then a few years later the legislature passed an amendment to the constitution giving women the right to vote despite the vote against it.
TBP: And you feel, with the help of the citizens of New Jersey – not only the GLBTIQ community but people who love them or believe same sex marriage is the right thing to do – that there will be equality in marriage here?
TBP: There is no doubt that in New Jersey and I think growing across the nation and the majority of people 35 years old and under supports marriage equality.
TBP: What do you say to the frustrated and disappointed who have worked so hard for equality?
Senator: Keep hope alive. It is just a matter of time.
TBP: If you were a betting man what would you say the odds are that this bill will pass in NJ.
Senator: Odds on, as we say in gambling. It is going to happen. And the New Jersey Supreme Court is going to rule in favor of the challenge that was brought in this case. I am very confident in that.
TBP: When do you think the final chapter will be written?
Sometime within the next 10 years. And I would say potentially a lot sooner than that.
And then maybe 10 years from now or shortly thereafter people will start saying ‘what was that all about… what was the big deal here.”