Former NJ Gov. Jim McGreevey Talks Same-Sex Marriage Ruling with CNN’s Smerconish
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Former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey talks to Michael Smerconish about the Supreme Court’s historic ruling on same-sex marriage and personal impact that it has and could have had on his life.
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Smerconish airs Saturdays at 9amET and replays at 6pmET
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, HOST: Welcome back.
He was the nation’s first openly gay governor and famously resigned from office in 2004 after coming out as gay.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM MCGREEVEY: So my truth is that I am a gay American. And I am blessed to live in the greatest nation, with a tradition of civil liberties, the greatest tradition of civil liberties in the world and a country which provides so much to its people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: I want to get Jim McGreevey’s take on yesterday’s landmark Supreme Court decision.
Governor McGreevey, thank you so much for being here.
MCGREEVEY: Good to be with you, Michael.
SMERCONISH: How might a decision like this have impacted your life had it have come decades ago?
MCGREEVEY: It’s — it’s a staggering decision. Basically, this — the nation is saying that I am created equal in the eyes of the law and the eyes of society. It’s a — it’s a major sea change, Michael.
What it says to young, you know, LGBT youth all across this country that you’re equal in the eyes of the law and, for many of us, in the eyes of the church. And it’s a powerful decision, the notion of equality, the notion of dignity.
It’s a word Justice Kennedy used again and again.
SMERCONISH: Your story is so well known, and in your case, you were actually married. Then, of course, came the revelations. You announced to the country, as we just saw in the tape, I am a — a gay American.
Do you think it would have put you on a different path, a personal path that would have been different had the Supreme Court, decades ago, given this green light?
MCGREEVEY: Sure. I mean I — I think that if I — if that decision had been there as a young boy, I would never have made the decisions I did. Frankly, I probably would have talked to my mother and father and asked them. I would have talked to a teacher or an — I would have talked to a person in authority, a local parish priest.
But frankly, you looked all around and there was no support. I mean the government didn’t recognize homosexuality. I mean, in fact, it was labeled by the American Medical Association as an illness. There was no recognition of gay marriage.
There was no support. There was no recognition by the state, the authority of the state.
And so when the United States Supreme Court, the highest law of the land, recognizes gay marriage as — as being worthy of the recognition of the Supreme Court, it’s a sea change not only in the eyes of the law, but what it does culturally, Michael.
SMERCONISH: You’re so well known because 11 years ago, you became the first openly gay governor in the history of the common — the history of the country. You’re also an attorney.
Let me show you something that Justice Scalia said in his dissent. He said that, “Until the courts put an end to it, we were witnessing one of the great exhibitions of American democracy on this issue. But now, five justices have just concluded that every state was violating “The Constitution” for 135 years, the time period between ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment and when Massachusetts recognized same-sex marriage in 2003.
What would be your response to Justice Scalia?
MCGREEVEY: My response would be is that Justice Kennedy saw that within the Fourteenth Amendment, there is this basic right of dignity, and that gay marriage ought to be afforded the same equality as heterosexual marriage.
So that if we know that equality is equality, why wait until the plebiscite or the legislative process moves on?
I mean if you — if you extract Justice Scalia’s argumentation to an awful conclusion, then he might not have moved to address the questions of interracial marriage. I mean then he would have allowed the legislative process to play itself out on a whole host of issues involving civil rights, involving women, involving gays, involving African-Americans.
So I think what Justice Kennedy did was to show not only the — the seismic change in the American culture, but he — he dug deep into the law and that the law is a living, breathing document and that the court has a moral responsibility to lift America up to our better angels.
And that’s what I believe he did when he embraced the notion of dignity inherent in the Fourteenth Amendment.
SMERCONISH: And finally, Governor, now you’ve dedicated your life to prison ministry. I find it interesting that proponents of marriage being recognized only between a man and woman often invoke faith, invoke God, say that he was the original architect of this being a union only of man and woman.
You would say what to those folks?
MCGREEVEY: Well, God bless them. I mean religion is so much a part of individual culture. And my faith, you know, when Pope Francis says who am I to judge, I — I think the pope has moved this significantly beyond our own cultural moorings.
And for me personally, you know, Michael, when I grappled — I didn’t want to be gay at that point in my life. I wanted to be like every other kid in the playground, every other kid in the Boy Scouts. But now I understand it’s a gift. It’s who God made me to be.
SMERCONISH: Governor, thank you for being here.
MCGREEVEY: Thank you, Michael.
It’s a great day to celebrate.