When it comes to marriage equality, Gov. Chris Christie’s position is clear: he supports civil unions and ensuring that same-sex couples have the same legal protections as married couples.
In this regard, Christie said during a Feb. 23 appearance on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program that he and President Barack Obama are like-minded.
Christie, a Republican, and Obama, a Democrat, agreeing on an issue that has divided people across the nation?
Not exactly, PolitiFact New Jersey found. The governor and the president agree on some issues related to same-sex marriage – but not all.
Let’s review what both leaders have said about gay marriage.
Christie opposes same-sex marriage and on Feb. 17 conditionally vetoed a Legislature bill legalizing it.
In 2008, prior to the presidential election, Obama said marriage is a union between one man and one woman. Since then, he has said is viewpoint is "evolving," according to numerous published reports.
In vetoing the Legislature’s bill, Christie suggested a referendum this November on gay marriage. Obama has opposed referenda on same-sex marriage, most recently legislation in North Carolina that would define marriage as between one man and one woman.
So what do the governor and president have in common? Both have said they support strengthening states’ civil union laws. But unlike Christie, Obama has not answered directly whether he supports same-sex marriage.
White House spokesman Brandon Lepow referred us to past remarks made by White House Press Secretary Jay Carney when we sought comment on Christie’s statement.
"The President has long opposed … divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny rights and benefits to same-sex couples," Carney said in January.
Christie has the same view, according to an e-mail from his spokesman Michael Drewniak.
"The Governor has proposed a strengthening of civil unions to ensure that those rights are appropriately enforced and administered under the law. The Governor has never spoken to the legislature’s qualifications to decide the issue one way or the other; he said what he would do with legislation if it was passed and did so (conditional veto), because it was against his beliefs. He said an issue of such magnitude and importance deserved to be put in the hands of the people, as a pathway for those who support same sex marriage to achieve it – if it was supported by a majority of voters. None of this is news, it’s been said multiple times by the Governor."
But given their differing view on same-sex marriage referenda, Christie might have taken too far his claim of a similar view as Obama when program host Joe Scarborough asked, "Is there any space on your position on gay marriage and President Barack Obama's?"
"Not that I'm aware of," Christie responded.
Others disagree with the governor.
"President Obama has taken a strong position opposing state efforts to put the rights of minorities up for a popular vote -- including most recently in North Carolina -- and the President is committed to eliminating all forms of discrimination against LGBT Americans under federal law, like the so-called 'Defense of Marriage' Act," University of Pennsylvania law professor Tobias Barrington Wolff said in an e-mail. Wolff also was an adviser to Obama's 2008 campaign on issues affecting the gay community.
Ned Flaherty, a Boston-based project manager for Marriage Equality USA, criticized Christie for going against the Legislature's vote, vetoing the bill and suggesting a referendum be held.
"He’s turning to people in the business of having a pulse on the public and saying, ‘I don’t believe you,’" Flaherty said.
During a recent television interview Christie said he and Obama shared the same views on gay marriage. That’s true to a point – both leaders say they support civil unions and oppose discriminating against same-sex couples. But that’s where the similarities end. Christie supports a public vote in New Jersey on allowing same-sex marriage; Obama opposes such referenda. Christie opposes same-sex marriage. The president won’t answer the question directly. We rate the statement Half True.
To comment on this story, go to NJ.com.