New Jersey Governor Chris Christie says the turmoil of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s could have been avoided, had states simply put African-Americans’ rights and integration to a vote.
“People would have been happy to have referendum on civil rights rather than fighting and dying in the streets in the South,” Christie said on Wednesday.
Christie was comparing the civil rights movement to the fight for same-sex marriage, calling for a referendum on gay marriage in New Jersey, rather than the passage of marriage equality by the legislature. Christie says he’ll veto a Democratic measure legalizing gay marriages, but a public vote on the matter would be fine with him.
According to Newsroom New Jersey:
…The comment that the civil rights movement of the 1960s could have been settled through a national or southern states voter referendum stunned Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver (D-Essex), who became the first African-American woman to head the lower house in 2010.
“Gov. Christie better sit down with some of New Jersey’s great teachers for a history lesson, because his puzzling comment shows a complete misunderstanding about the civil rights movement,” Oliver said. “It’s impossible to ever conceive that a referendum on civil rights in the South would have been successful and brought justice to minorities. It’s unfathomable to even suggest a referendum would have been the better course.”
“Governor — people were fighting and dying in the streets of the South for a reason,” the Assemblywoman said. “They were fighting and dying in the streets of the South because the majority refused to grant minorities equal rights by any method. It look legislative action to bring justice to all Americans, just as legislative action is the right way to bring marriage equality to all New Jerseyans.”
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