How You Can Start and Operate a Soup Kitchen

Mission Possible: How You Can Start and Operate a Soup Kitchen

Congressman Smith has gone too far on gay-rights issue

Congressman Chris Smith is the dean of the New Jersey congressional delegation, having been re-elected 17 times. Over the years he has trounced such Democratic Party notables as Betty Holland, Reed Gusciora and Brian Hughes. Since 1982, he has won re-election with at least 61 percent of the vote and has gotten more than 64 percent of the vote on ten different occasions.

He also is one of the strongest and most outspoken opponents of abortion in either house of Congress. His commitment to "the unborn" has no bounds even when it comes to cases of rape, incest or to saving the life of the mother. He is a universally acknowledged antiabortion zealot in a state that is decidedly pro-choice.

How does he manage to win re-election while being out of sync with the majority of his constituents on the issue of abortion?

First and foremost, in a time when the electorate feels that most politicians will tell them anything to get elected, Chris Smith is honest and does not hide his pro-life views. Smith's zealotry is there for everyone to see. And although folks may disagree with his no-exceptions views of abortion, they have been willing to allow him this one issue. I believe that one reason he gets a free ride on abortion is because unlike many antiabortion advocates, he does not abandon children after their birth. On the contrary, Congressman Smith has sponsored tax credits for adoption, opposed Medicaid cuts as a deficit reduction strategy and been an advocate for increased funding for autism spectrum disorders.

Smith's office has always been very good at constituency service. He surrounds himself with very competent staffers who do a excellent job of responding to citizen inquiries/issues. This matters and after 34 years his office has a lot of satisfied customers.

A third reason Congressman Smith wins is because of his strong support among veterans. He has been so supportive of veterans that he lost his position as chair of the Veterans Affairs Committee in 2001 when he would not go along with the Republican Party leadership on spending cuts for veterans' programs.

Another reason he wins is because of his growing following among organized labor, traditionally a bastion of support for Democrats. In his most recent election, he was endorsed by the New Jersey AFL-CIO and recently he was one of three House Republicans to buck his fellow Republicans and vote against efforts to overturn federal regulations that make it easier for workers to organize. The vote was on resolution rejecting a National Labor Relations Board ruling that would have expedited the process by which employees could vote on forming a union. In 2014 he received $41,000 from the Building Trade Union PAC, his biggest campaign contribution.

Over the years Chris Smith has staked out an anti-reproductive choice position that has included attempts to outlaw the birth control pill, block private insurance companies and personal flexible spending accounts from being used for a woman's contraception, prevent abortions in military hospitals and deny federal funds to family planning organizations that distribute information about abortion overseas.

Now he has decided to up the ante and has begun bringing his dogmatic brand of social conservatism to marriage equality and gay-rights issues. His newest religious crusade began during a House Foreign Relations Committee meeting on the subject of human rights in Nigeria when he made the following anti-gay remark: "I am a strong believer in traditional marriage and do not construe homosexual rights as human rights." By separating LGBT rights from human rights, Smith has, in effect, dehumanized gays and lesbians. His discriminatory utterances are inconsistent with Pope Francis's recent statement that gays "should not be marginalized."

More recently, Smith signed-on as a co-sponsor of the First Amendment Defense Act, a bill designed to protect tax-exempt organizations and people who find same-sex unions to be contrary to their faith on religious grounds. The act provides broad protection against adverse federal action directed towards individuals and organizations that act on the basis of their religious beliefs.

Under the bill, small businesses including bakeries, barbers, caterers, florists, tuxedo rental businesses, photographers and wedding chapels could refuse to service gay couples based on the owner's religious beliefs. Likewise, a college with religious affiliation and federal grants would be allowed to deny employment to somebody married to a person of the same sex.

Suffice it to say this bill would for all intents and purposes legalize discrimination under the guise of expanding so-called religious freedom. As The Star Ledger wrote in a recent editorial, "America has been through this before. After the Civil Rights Act passed in 1965, racist merchants still wanted to deny services to black customers. Some cited religious beliefs, saying God did not intend the races to mix. This bill fits neatly into that bigoted tradition."

The residents of central New Jersey, including veterans' groups and labor unions, need to send Congressman Smith a message that they gave him a pass on "one issue" in the past, but that they will not support his re-election if he continues to push legislation that would allow discrimination against gays and lesbians. Enough is enough.