Christie nominates a gay Republican and a Korean immigrant to Supreme Court

UPDATE: For the full story in today's paper, click here.

New Jersey will seat its first gay Supreme Court justice and first Asian-American justice if two nominees offered by Gov. Christie are confirmed by the state senate.

The nominees are Chatham Mayor Bruce Harris, believed to be the only gay African-American Republican mayor in the country, and Phillip Kwon, a Korean-American immigrant who is the state's First Assistant Attorney General and was involved in the prosecution of former Newark Mayor Sharpe James.

"While these two men have stellar resumes and are respected throughout the legal community for what they've accomplished as lawyers, their nominations today are historic for another reason," Christie said at a Statehouse news conference today with Kwon, Harris and their families. "Not only do their different backgrounds and career paths bring distinctive and important perspectives to the court, Bruce and Phil also capture the state's diversity."

If confirmed, Harris will be the third African-American justice to be seated in the state and the seventh openly gay state justice in the country, Christie said. He stood with Christie at the news conference alongside his partner of 32 years.

"This is an important moment in our state's history and in our country's history and signals just as far we have come," the Republican governor said.

The announcement comes a day before the Democratic Legislature holds its first hearing on a bill allowing same-sex marriage, which is its top priority of the year. Christie has expressed opposition to same-sex marriage in the past, and at the news conference he made his strongest indication to date that he would veto such a bill.

"Right now all it is is a bill like hundreds of bills pending in the Legislature right now," Christie said. "I'm not someone who changes positions with the grace of a ballerina, so I wouldn't be all atwitter in expectation."

Democrats pressured Christie to appoint minorities to the court, and Christie said diversity was an important but secondary factor in his choice.

If confirmed, on March 1 Harris and Kwon will replace former Justice John Wallace Jr., an African American whom Christie declined to reappoint in 2010 in a highly unusual and controversial move, and Justice Virginia Long, who faces mandatory retirement at age 70. 

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