New Jersey Sets the Nation on a Path to Freedom

On this day in history, November 20, 1789, New Jersey ratified the
Bill of Rights — the first state to do so.

Proponents of the Bill of Rights were concerned that a too powerful
government would trample on the rights of individuals, especially
if those rights were not clearly stated. Few remember that
including the Bill of Rights — the first 10 amendments to the
Constitution — was a serious debate.

The US has been a beacon of democracy since it was founded — never
perfect, but the path was set. We have always had the stated goals
of freedom and equality to stand on, even when forces within the
country opposed and oppressed specific groups. Much ground has been
made in a relatively short national history wielding those
rhetorical swords, empowered by our nation’s vision.

It’s fitting that New Jersey was the first state to propel the Bill
of Rights forward. Right now a battle is waging in the Garden State
to ensure true marriage equality for all its citizens.
Activists in the state successfully made the argument for equal
partnership rights to the state’s Supreme Court. Then the
legislature faltered, creating civil unions instead. But the
activist leadership in New Jersey never failed to push the fight
forward. Their steadfastness in calling for marriage over civil
unions has been impressive and unwavering. When others said that
“civil unions will do,” they said, “Civil unions do not

And in recent months, seeing that the proponents of true
marriage equality will not back down, New Jersey Governor John S.
Corzine stated publicly that he would sign a marriage equality bill
as early as 2009. No, it’s not immediate. Yes, it’s about avoiding
election year politics in 2008.

But it is on the right path.

So, congratulations, New Jersey, and thanks — for 1789 and for