Mixed legacy for Gerry

My stepfather, Elbridge Free Gerry, was related to Elbridge Gerry, for whom gerrymandering is named ("'Gerrymander' too quaint for this," Sunday). As a youngster, I thought it was pretty neat to have a well-known relative. The original Gerry was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, a governor of Massachusetts, and President James Madison's vice president. As an adult, I realized how sleazy he was in creating political districts to favor one party over another.

The gerrymandering of the Seventh Congressional District is referred to as slime mold, an accurate description, and the district's designers should be ashamed. The boundaries ooze into parts of five counties and almost 100 municipalities, and touch three states. Some of the areas are barely contiguous. How much do these different communities have in common?

One of my granddaughters was given Gerry as a middle name, not in honor of a notorious governor but to pay homage to my stepfather, who was both proud of his relative's positive accomplishments and embarrassed at the distinction earned later in his life.

Sandy Gerry Schwartz, Berlin, schwartz148@verizon.net

Christie should lead on gay marriage

New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney is right ("N.J. lawmakers ready push for gay marriage," Jan. 22). It is wrong to let the majority vote on civil rights for a minority. If civil rights for African Americans had been left to a referendum in the South, civil rights would have been delayed for decades. Furthermore, the religious argument in regard to gay marriage is moot now that New York and Maryland - and New Jersey in its proposed legislation - is protecting religious groups that do not want marriage ceremonies. On this issue, it is time for Gov. Christie to be more reflective and consider the possibility of leading the Republican Party rather than playing to its base.

William J. Pelle Jr., former director of civil rights, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Philadelphia, wjpelle@comcast.net

N.J. Democrats' skewed priorities

The Democrat-controlled New Jersey legislature has announced its No. 1 priority for 2012: passing a "gay marriage" bill.

The Democrats wisely waited until after last November's election to make this announcement. Not one of the newly elected or reelected representatives publicly stated their position on this issue in their election mailings. What a bunch of cowards.

The majority of New Jersey residents see unaffordable real estate taxes, disappearing jobs, an underfunded state pension system, crumbling infrastructure, the decline of the real estate market, stagnant wages, and inflation as higher priorities. But since Democrats don't have a coherent plan to fix any of those problems, they will concentrate their time and energy on "gay marriage."

No wonder Gov. Christie is continually able to outsmart his Democratic adversaries.

Carol Rhodes, Barnsboro

Don't put basic rights to a vote

On gay marriage, Gov. Christie says, "This issue is too big and too consequential not to trust the people." However, civil rights of any kind should not be voted upon. They must be legislated, at least until the time that hatred and bias are no longer in the American vocabulary.

Fran Heineman, Abington

Tightening up Obama's message

E.J. Dionne uses several hundred words to spell out for us what a clear choice the president is giving voters ("Obama is giving voters a clear choice," Sunday). He could have been much more concise. For example, Obama = Tax more and spend more. Republicans = Cut spending and revise the tax code. End of story.

R.E. Barras Sr., Hatboro, rebsr24@aol.com

Sacrifices that judges must make

The editorial on judges' use of Facebook illuminates that the law - including ethics rules - often lags behind the technological revolution ("A friend in need can be a friend indeed," Jan. 24). The truth is that the great power and responsibility of the judicial robes are accompanied by certain personal sacrifices.

We understand that Facebook friends are not the same as real-life friends. We also recognize that free social media such as Facebook and Twitter are valuable tools for judicial candidates forced to campaign and raise funds in contested political elections. But we believe that when a candidate becomes a judge, use of those services should change dramatically. The best policy is for judges to shut down their personal and campaign pages and to find another way to keep in touch with their real friends.

Judges must always maintain the highest commitment to ethical conduct and to creating both the reality and appearance of fairness and impartiality. Facebook is a convenience, but it's one that judges should be prepared to sacrifice in service to those principles.

Lynn A. Marks, executive director, Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, Philadelphia, info@pmconline.org

Shira J. Goodman, deputy director, PMC

No tweeting during speech, lectures

As a college professor, I have to regularly remind my students that it is unprofessional to text or respond to phone messages during lectures. They are young people, addicted to media and sometimes unaware that this conduct is extremely rude. Last Tuesday night, members of Congress, from both parties, tweeted 548 times during President Obama's State of the Union speech. If we want to increase civility and have more people listen to each other in Washington, let's start by banning the inane practice of congressmen tweeting while sitting in the audience for a major speech, regardless of who is delivering it.

Ed Lordan, Wallingford

N.J. justice wasn't mistreated

Exactly how was former New Jersey Supreme Court Justice John E. Wallace mistreated ("Nod to diversity now doesn't make up for past," Saturday)? He reached the end of his term and was not reappointed by a governor from a different party than the one who appointed him. Surprise, surprise!

With regard to the issue of diversity, how about recognizing that Democrats have been in control of the Statehouse for years - long before Gov. Christie was elected. Diversity of the court could have been advanced several times by Democratic governors, but hasn't been. Democrats had plenty of opportunity to appoint more than one African American to the Supreme Court. Why not write about that?

To his credit, Christie did not pander to liberals by appointing a black person to replace Wallace, which would have had the appearance of perpetuating the perception of a "one black justice" quota on the court.

Tom Friedberg, Medford, frdbrg@att.net

Who mocks the electoral process?

Dick Polman has it exactly right ("Our leaders, not Colbert, made the mockery," Thursday). It is our wacky campaign-finance system that equates corporations to citizens and allows unlimited, unattributable dollars to buy elections that are making a mockery of the process. We have an electoral system, and resulting political system, that makes the cynical adage "He who has the gold makes the rules" almost a truism.

We owe much thanks to Steven Colbert and his Comedy Central cohort Jon Stewart for their efforts in highlighting the ridiculousness and seriousness of the problem, and doing it with such skillful satire and humor.

Joe Spampinato, Newtown Square, joenpat40@comcast.net