October 23, 2013
Gov. Chris Christie (Mel Evans/AP)
Gov. Chris Christie (Mel Evans/Associated Press)

Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council was none too pleased by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s decision to drop his appeal of a court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in the Garden State. “On its face, it seems Christie not only yielded to judicial activism — but aided it by capitulating,” Perkins said of the Republican governor in a statement Monday. “Apparently, the Governor is giving up all hopes of identifying as a conservative in any future political aspirations.”

Never fear, Mr. Perkins. Look for Christie to prove his conservative bona fides by June 2014. A source with close ties to the New Jersey political establishment e-mailed me yesterday with a plausible scenario.

Term of Stuart Rabner, Chief Justice of NJ Supreme Court, is up in June 2014, which will allow Chris to throw conservatives a bone by replacing the “activist” judge responsible for the NJ gay marriage decision. Interesting twist is that although Stuart was nominated by [former Gov. Jon] Corzine, he was Chris’ #2 in the US Attorney’s office.

As my Garden State source points out, Christie and Rabner worked together in the U.S. Attorney’s office when Christie ran it. And ripping Rabner as an “activist” judge won’t be a new exercise for the governor either.

PolitickerNJ.com, the bible for New Jersey’s political set, wondered if Rabner was “headed the way of John Wallace.” During his first campaign for governor, the site reported back in July, “Christie had decried what he called the court’s activism, and promised to remake it in a more conservative image not prone to legislate from the bench.” And he followed through by not reappointing Wallace, then the state supreme court’s only African American jurist.

Rabner earned Christie’s ire last summer when the court ruled against the governor’s effort to abolish the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH).

Both elected branches of government approved the plan to eliminate COAH. Not surprisingly, this liberal Supreme Court once again ignores that and continues to blindly perpetuate its failed social experiment in housing. The Chief Justice’s activist opinion arrogantly bolsters another of the failures he and his colleagues have foisted on New Jersey taxpayers. This only steels my determination to continue to fight to bring common sense back to New Jersey’s judiciary.

All the arguments used by Christie to thunder against Rabner in that housing case could be recycled to thunder against Rabner in the unanimous decision to reject the governor’s request to prevent same-sex nuptials before the appeal hearings in January. So, it looks like Christie will once again win by losing on gay marriage.

By getting out of the way of marriage equality, Christie helps his effort to run up the widest reelection margin possible by giving voters in his very blue, marriage-equality-loving state another reason to pull the lever for him next month. By replacing Rabner on the state’s highest court next spring, Christie can show conservatives he’s true to their cause by striking a blow against “liberal” courts and their “activist” opinions. If Christie does run for the Republican nomination for president in 2016, the latter action will be all the far-right GOP base cares about.

Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @Capehartj

Jonathan Capehart is a member of the Post editorial board and writes about politics and social issues for the PostPartisan blog.