Phil Murphy says he’s heard enough, but Jack Ciattarelli isn’t done talking yet about LGBT curriculum in New Jersey schools.
The Republican gubernatorial candidate said on a radio program today that he wants Murphy to publicly answer some questions.
Should kindergarten students be taught gender identity?
Should “the most explicit sex acts” be taught in middle school?
Ciattarelli first waded into a version of the “culture wars” last month when he expressed unease with how gender identity and “sodomy” is taught in school. He vowed to “roll back” LGBT curriculum requirements.
Asked about this at his Monday briefing, Murphy reacted more to the general topic than the specifics.
He called Ciattarelli’s comments divisive, adding, “The last thing we need is use of words that are third rail words. Enough already.”
The governor noted that it is, after all, 2021. That was not really a throw-away line, given the fact Ciattarelli’s sodomy reference seemed very 1950-ish.
But Ciattarelli is not letting the topic go, saying today on the Bernie & Sid Show on 770 WABC that he thinks his views and questions are in line with mainstream New Jersey sentiment.
The show’s hosts lean sharply to the right, so this was not a forum where Ciattarelli was going to be challenged.
But you imagine he will be during the campaign if he persists raising this topic.
The governor’s overall point likely will be that gay rights themselves have become a mainstream issue and that seeking to turn back progress is a very narrow and reactionary view.
At the same time, Ciattarelli got some support today from the Log Cabin Republicans, which back gay rights.
It said in a statement that “left wing special interest groups are intentionally mischaracterizing (Ciattarelli’s) recent comment against extremist indoctrination in schools to falsely smear him as anti-LGBT.”
It added that exposing young children to “overtly-sexualized and identity-driven ideology doesn’t make someone an anti-LGBT bigot. It makes them sane.”
Still, dealing with cultural issues is going to be a balancing act for Ciattarelli for the next three-plus months. Clearly, he needs to give his base, which includes a lot of Trump supporters, some “red meat.” His comments about LGBT do that.
Yet, he can’t veer too far right in a state where Republicans are outnumbered by more than a million voters and where Trump lost badly twice.
With that in mind, perhaps, a story today in Politico quoted Ciattarelli as telling Hunterdon County Republicans that he needs a “little wiggle room” to spend campaign time in places where Republicans do not always go.
That may be, but the other part of the balancing act is catering to his conservative base.
It already seems clear Ciattarelli is going far and wide – and outside New Jersey – to do just that.
At about the same time his original LGBT comments surfaced, he also visited Hudson County for a rally to support protests in Cuba.
And now he’s gotten around to ice cream.
Following news reports that Ben & Jerry’s plans to stop selling ice cream in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Ciattarelli said that his family will no longer buy the company’s products.
Ben & Jerry’s already is on the outs with some conservatives over its support for BLM and other liberal causes, so this is another case where Ciattarelli’s balancing act tilts right.