FIRST TERM GRADES
Gov. Chris Christie
January 2010-January 2014
Average Grade: D+
The ACLU-NJ first examined Gov. Chris Christie’s record on civil liberties and civil rights in 2012, midway through his first term in office. At the time, the governor earned mostly low marks for his administration’s poor handling of many critical civil liberties issues, such as reproductive freedom and free speech. He received positive marks for standing up against bullying of persons in the LGBT community and for respecting freedom of religion.
Two years later, Gov. Christie’s first term is behind him and the ACLU-NJ has taken another look at the governor’s performance in civil rights and civil liberties subjects. The ACLU-NJ examined 12 areas and graded the governor based on his and his administration’s public statements, actions, and inaction on important policy decisions. This report examines his first term as governor, which ended in January 2014.
Overall, Gov. Christie’s grades are disappointing. His administration performed decently in some areas, earning a B in respecting freedom of religion and a B- in voting rights, but his average grade was a D+. He failed outright in four categories — separation of church and state, transparency, separation of powers, and economic justice.
Some of Gov. Christie’s most frustrating moments came when he failed to back up bold words about civil rights and liberties with substantive action — appearing to look the part of a civil liberties champion, rather than act it. Rhetoric without any substantive action helps no one but Gov. Christie.
His record on LGBT and immigrants’ rights speaks to this tendency. Although he has stated that he opposes discrimination against LGBT families, he fought against same-sex marriages in court and in the legislature until it was clear he would not win. And while he supported giving undocumented immigrants a chance at a higher education by signing the NJ Dream Act, he removed an important provision that would have fully opened the doors of opportunity by allowing them to apply for state financial aid.
The governor’s approach to the failed war on drugs is another example of his lip service to civil liberties. Gov. Christie made a bold statement about ending the war on drugs, but he failed to back up his words with any forceful action.
We hope the governor spends the rest of his second term in office promoting and respecting the rights of all New Jerseyans by prioritizing reforms and initiatives that promote civil liberties and civil rights. The lower grades between the midterm and final report card leave us, however, with little optimism.