The Rise and Fall of the National Organization for Marriage

New Jerseyans will go the distance (either in-state or out)

January 10, 2012, by Jeremy Hooper


At the northern tip of New Jersey lies the city of High Point. At the south, you'll find Cape May. And the distance between them is around 207 miles. That means that a proud New Jerseyan who wanted to spend a day driving through the vast expanse of all that is the Garden State would need to stay in the car for around four hours to make it from bottom to top.

But now consider a few more figures:

Cherry Hill, NJ --> Washington, D.C.: approx. 147 miles
Passaic, NJ--> Bennington, VT: approx. 176 miles
East Brunswick --> Morris, CT: approx. 131 miles
Fort Lee, NJ --> Yonkers, NY: approx. 10.9 miles
Paterson--> Pittsfield, MA: approx. 157 miles
Trenton--> Albany: approx. 197 miles
Hoboken--> NYC: approx. 4.5 miles

All shorter. Some of them still measured in hours, but others can be made in minutes. Some are too short to even allow the driver to hear the next 1010 WINS traffic report, much less necessitate a pee break.

My point? That a New Jersey local from just about any city can get to a location where same-sex couples can marry in less time than he or she could explore the entire northern-southern expanse of his or her own state. Some of them don't even require tolls.

Or consider it another way. Say you are a young student about to graduate from one of New Jersey's fine schools. Say Rutgers. You're offered two jobs, one in Montclair and one on Long Island. Salary and benefits are similar. Potential for advancement is abounding at both. Oh, but I forgot to tell you: You're gay, so that of course means only one of these two jobs is in a state where you might fall in love, legally marry, and plant lifetime roots. Might that sway your decision to move the relatively short distance so that you can feel infinitely more respected by your government?

I mention these realities because, in reading NOM's latest "EMERGENCY ALERT!" on New Jersey detailing how they plan to deny benign peace to that state, I couldn't help but notice a glaring omission. Namely: Any consideration of the fact -- THE FACT! -- that New Jersey is now located in a part of the country that's abounding with marriage equality states. That five-state-and-D.C.-reality is not a little point in this debate; however, it is a CRUSHING reality for NOM and its spin machine, which is precisely why you won't see it highlighted in the organization's NJ action alerts.

Now, of course NOM would say that my second scenario is far-fetched and rare. But as someone who has quite literally had to consider these same kinds of realities in determining my own path from the Tennessee of my past to the New York of my now, I know the scenario firsthand. I know that as LGBT people, we are constantly having to make considerations that others take for granted. For LGBT New Jerseyans in 2012, marriage equality is certainly one of them.

As for the distance factor? Well NOM would probably say, "So what, who's going to drive the entire state anyway?" But of course I'm not really saying that one would take up this exercise on a regular basis. I'm also not overlooking the fact that some [insert NJ city] --> [insert marriage equality city] distances are greater than the examples I gave. But what I am saying, quite plainly, is that for EVERY SINGLE GARDEN STATE RESIDENT, a short car trip now means a locale where full (state-level) equality is afforded to any one of the state's many same-sex couples, as opposed to the lesser-than "civil unions" branding that New Jersey currently demands. And I'm saying that it is both undignified and absurd to tell those happy couples that when they return to NJ, their marriages can no longer operate under that marital term, and must instead adopt a clumsy label that encourages so much misunderstanding!

NOM staffers can overlook this Northeastern reality all they want. Doing so will only help us reach the (inevitable) point when reality can finally ignore NOM.