NJ governor: I'm gay and I quit

By Tim Grieve
Published August 12, 2004 8:48PM (EDT)

On a day when the California Supreme Court's decision on gay marriage seemed likely to dominate the national news, New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey just knocked the case right off of the front page. In a press conference carried live on CNN, McGreevey announced that he is gay, that he has carried on an extra-marital affair with a gay man, and that he is resigning from office effective Nov. 15.

"I engaged in an adult consensual affair with another man," McGreevey said. "It was wrong, it was foolish, and it was inexcusable." It wasn't the gay part that McGreevey thought was wrong; it was the infidelity, he said, and the "likely impact" of the affair on the governor's office.

McGreevey, a Democrat who is married and has two children, said he has known all his life that something "separated" him from others. He said he repressed his feelings and forced upon himself "what I thought was an acceptable reality." "My truth," he said, is that "I am a gay American."

Throughout the day, political watchers had braced for McGreevey's resignation and speculated about its cause. McGreevey has not been a popular governor, and he has alienated even some of his supporters. A poll taken in late July and early August showed McGreevey's approval ratings dropping sharply. As the New York Times reported Wednesday, "the growing disapproval did not seem to be attributable to the [state's] budget, or to legislation that the governor did or did not sign. Rather, the pollsters said, it reflected recent criminal charges against two of his fund-raisers."

Shortly before the poll was taken, a McGreevey fund-raiser named Charles Kushner was charged with what the Times called "a bizarre witness-tampering scheme involving call girls and videotaped sex." McGreevey has not been implicated in that case, which suddenly seems -- relatively speaking, at least -- a little trivial today.

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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