In a decision with direct implications for the 2016 Republican presidential race, Gov. Chris Christie ordered his attorney general Monday not to fight a court decision legalizing gay marriage, making New Jersey the nation’s 14th state to recognize same-sex unions.
The capitulation on the hot-button social issue is an about-face for Mr. Christie and may cement his reputation as a pragmatist who fights to win — but shrewdly folds when he sees he has a losing hand, said some political observers. It also may boost the governor’s vote total in his re-election race next month, further burnishing his status as a rare Republican politician who can thrive in a blue state.
But that same pragmatism may hurt his standing with the GOP political base as Mr. Christie faces a field of more conservative rivals in the 2016 presidential primaries. Social conservatives Monday were condemning Mr. Christie’s decision to call off the fight, allowing the court to essentially overturn the state law against gay marriage.
“Ahead of us is a constitutional crisis,” said Len Deo, president of the New Jersey Family Policy Council.
The New Jersey Supreme Court “allowed a single judge to decide for the entire state what marriage is, treading on both the governor and the legislature in doing so,” said Mr. Deo. There are no provisions for religious exemptions, “meaning we will soon see people threatened with intolerable choices between their consciences and their authorization to minister to the needy or conduct business with the public,” he said.
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