Protesters Say Garrett’s Views Out of Step with New Jersey

By David Cruz

It’s unlikely that — if he were in his office — Congressman Scott Garrett could hear the small band of demonstrators that gathered outside his office in Glen Rock this morning. Led by Garden State Equality and including Planned Parenthood and others, demonstrators called out Garrett for his support of a bill that would allow individuals and organizations to refuse to provide services to same-sex couples.

“How can you believe that in 2015 this kind of thing is OK?” asked Andrea Bowen, executive director of Garden State Equality.

Garrett, a Bergen County Republican, has come under fire, from the left for his support of the so-called First Amendment Defense Act and from the right for reportedly refusing to raise funds for the Republican Party because it has supported openly gay candidates.

“It’s as if he walked out of a time warp from 1985, and it’s important for us to show that we can’t be cowed,” added Bowen. “We won’t be cowed and we’re gonna shout back.”

Garrett’s position did not sit well with some Republicans, including Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick, who called Garrett’s stance “unacceptable” and contributed money to a potential Garrett opponent, who happens to be openly gay. One Garrett opponent, two-time Republican Congressional candidate Michael Cino joined today’s protest and got in some politicking for what he says will be another run.

“I don’t believe that the congressman’s remarks are representative of the Republican Party; they’re not representative of the district; they’re not representative of the people of the district,” said Cino. “I don’t know how much people have kept up with his views. He’s very extremist.”

So far, the congressman has not responded to requests for comment. He didn’t call us back today, either, but the pushback on Garrett, who’s been in the Fifth Congressional District seat since 2003, has begun to attract attention on the national scene.

“To not support a candidate based on the content of their character or the quality of their ideas, but based on who they choose to love, smacks of raw bigotry,” said Sen. Cory Booker today, “and if any of us heard that somebody’s not gonna support a candidate because they’re Irish, or because they’re Italian, that to me is outrageous and unacceptable and I think that New Jersey, as a whole, is gonna reject and renounce this kind of thought.”

Teaneck Resident Diane Schwarz mocked what she said was Garrett’s “old” way of thinking. “Maybe he’s too old, because it’s a younger generation,” she said. “I don’t know exactly, but he doesn’t look that old, but maybe he is. Maybe he’s hiding his age. His age in his head is old.”

Garrett’s conservative views have raised controversy before, yet he continues to win reelection in this district handily. Demonstrators here, though, say this time the congressman’s gone too far.