I always say that I don’t fall in love with a lot of politicians. I vote the issues. Period. The worst Democrat is better than the best Republican. But sometimes I find Democratic politicians who I really like and admire. Newark, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker is one of them. Why? Because he’s real. He speaks from the heart even if it gets him onto the White House’s naughty list for a few days (but even they can’t stay mad at him for long). He doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty. He’s passionate about human beings, and has actually put himself into positions that help him really feel their pain. Cory Booker has dedicated his life to public service. I know, I know…they ALL say this. But my gut tells me he means it.
Booker has quite the credentials. He was a University of Oxford Rhodes Scholar, obtained his Juris Doctorate from Yale, and has an M.A. in Sociology and a B.A. in Political Science. Booker chose to spend his life being a true champion for human rights, and that includes gay rights.
“I get in weird conversations with my friends. ‘Why you always talking about gay rights?’ I said, ‘I’m not talking about gay rights. I’m talking about human rights. I’m talking about my rights. I’m talking about your rights.’”
“When people were fighting to expand the promise of this country, it took everybody involved, ’cause we knew we were all in it together. That deep and real African proverb was clearly true in our history that says, ‘If you want to go fast, you go alone. If you want to go far, you go together.’”
“And so now, it’s time we go together.”
The entire 23 minute video is embedded at the end of this article.
He has even blasted Governor Chris Christie, which he has never done before, by condemning Christie’s plan to veto a gay marriage law unless it was approved by a majority of New Jersey voters. Christie’s words: “I need to be governed by the will of the people.”
Well, fine and good. But as Mayor Booker says, “I shudder to think what would have happened if the civil rights gains, heroically established by courageous lawmakers in the 1960s, were instead conveniently left up to popular votes in our 50 states.” (Source: Crooks and Liars)
Booker countered that leaders are elected to make difficult decisions, not submit to a public referendum.
“Equal protection under the law – for race, religion, gender or sexual orientation – should not be subject to the most popular sentiments of the day,” Booker said. “Marriage equality is not a choice. It is a legal right. I hope our leaders in Trenton will affirm and defend it.”
“We should not be putting civil rights issues up to a popular vote to be subject to the sentiments, the passions of the day. No minority should have their rights subject to the passions and sentiments of the majority. This is a fundamental bedrock of what our nation stands for…This should not be a popular vote. This is something we should do now…To me, it’s ridiculous and offensive that we’re still having this debate.”
Here’s the video:
The gay community in New Jersey loves Cory Booker and he loves them. Since becoming the mayor of Newark in 2006, Booker has formed a commission on LGBT youth, raised the rainbow flag over the Newark City Hall, and refuses to officiate at any wedding until same-sex marriage is legal in the state. (Source: Queerty)
But Cory hasn’t always been a gay rights advocate. “Superhero Mayor Booker” was “Super-Homophobe Star-Football Player Booker” until 1992.
While doing his graduate work at Stanford University, he was a columnist for The Stanford Daily. In Volume 201, Number 33 of The Stanford Daily on Wednesday, April 8, 1992, he wrote an op-ed article titled “Pointing the finger at gays,” in which he confronted his own homophobia.
His feelings towards gay people actually went far beyond mere homophobia. Booker admitted that at one time he actually “hated” gay people and was “disgusted by” the gay community. “The thought of two men kissing each other was about as appealing as a frontal lobotomy,” he said. He even expressed “latent hostility” towards them. He trained himself to function around gay people but he still struggled to maintain an “air of acceptance.”
“While hate is a four-letter word I never would have admitted to, the sentiment clandestinely pervaded my every interaction with homosexuals,” Booker wrote. “I sheepishly shook hands with gays or completely shied away from physical contact. I still remember how my brow would often unconsciously furrow when I was with gays as thoughts would flash in my mind, ‘What sinners I am amongst’ or ‘How unnatural these people are.'” (Source: BookerRising.com)
He explained by saying, “I was in my tolerance stage or the ‘I don’t give a damn if someone is gay, just as long as they don’t bother me’ stage. I was well trained in my tolerance. I stopped telling my gay jokes. Fags, flamers and dykes became homosexuals and people of differing sexual orientation and, of course, I had my gay friend.”
Booker’s outlook completely changed after numerous discussions with Daniel Bao, an openly gay counselor. He admits that prior to his first conversation with the counselor, he had no interest in listening. He went in prepared to argue and debate. But it was Bao’s personal testimony that shook up Booker’s thinking. Bao shared stories of people who had pleaded with God to make them become straight and talked about his own years of denial and the pain of always being different. Bao described violence from strangers and family, horrible beatings, destruction of property, and daily verbal condemnations. This was disturbing to Booker because Bao was, in Booker’s words, “A beautiful man whose eloquent and poignant truths began to move me past tolerance.”
At some point he had the epiphany that gay people and black people shared similar struggles.
“It was chilling to find that so much of the testimony he shared with me was almost identical to stories my grandparents told me about growing up Black. People found it revolting to share a meal with them and often felt it to be their duty to beat them so that they would learn proper living.”
That’s when he recognized that his homophobia was his own problem. He realized that his hate of gay people didn’t lie with them, but with himself. It was “A problem I dealt with by ceasing to tolerate gays and instead seeking to embrace them.”
He grew to develop a sort of kinship with the gay community and to draw strength from them. He says that gay people are some of the strongest and most caring people that he knows. He also developed a compassion for their oppression and realized that the “disgust and latent hostility I felt towards gays were subcategories of hatred, plain and simple.”
In the beginning he wasn’t quite as vocal as he is now. He said in the 1992 article,
“Alas, occasionally I still find myself acting defensive if someone thinks I am gay or sometimes I remain silent when others slam and slander. These realizations hurt me deeply. I must continue to struggle for personal justice. This is my most important endeavor. I have seen too many of my male friends – no matter whether they’re on the football field or inside a church – bash gays and then revel in their machismo or piety.”
He sometimes prayed for the kind of patience and grace that Bao artfully maintained as Booker fired questions and condemnations him.
Booker concluded the piece saying that he “will never point a finger when the finger is best pointed at me,” and that his quest “for personal justice” is his “most important endeavor.”
It is fascinating and uplifting to look back in time and glimpse of the birth of a strong liberal who will probably be an icon for Democrats of my generation and the ones that follow. I think we all remember our own epiphanies and the stirrings of anger and outrage that we felt when we began to recognize injustice. I call it “the liberal gene.” The liberal gene is what differentiates us from Republicans.
Thursday, Booker tweeted:
The New Jersey Star Ledger has reported that the New Jersey LGBT community is advocating that Booker enter the next New Jersey gubernatorial race and defeat Chris Christie. However, Booker announced in December that he is considering a 2014 Senate bid.
Fred Sainz of the Human Rights Campaign said it best:
“Like few others, Cory Booker manages to capture the imagination of the LGBT community from all over the country, and from all walks of life. I would suspect a wide diversity of Americans would support his campaign and help get him the resources he needs to win.” (Source: TowerRoad)
I agree. Sorry, New Jersey LGBT community, but we need him on the national level. I feel you, but you need to find another strong liberal to defeat Chris Christie. As a senator, Booker would have a reach far beyond the borders of New Jersey, and will have the opportunity to fight for the rights of every gay person in the United States. How does Booker for President 2016 sound, if Hillary doesn’t run? And if she does, it will be Booker 2024.
Watch the 23 minute video: