Harris, 61, a graduate of Yale Law School, was elected mayor of the borough of Chatham, N.J., in November, and sworn into the office just weeks ago — at the time, he was believed to be the first openly gay, black Republican mayor in the country.
If confirmed by the state Senate, Harris would be the third African-American to be seated on the court, and the first openly gay justice in New Jersey. His partner of 32 years, Marc Boisclair, attended the announcement.
Currently only six openly gay justices sit on state Supreme Courts nationwide, according to Victory Fund, a Washington D.C., group that supports political campaigns of gay candidates.
Steve Goldstein, chief executive of Garden State Equality, a gay rights organization, said he was stunned when Christie called to tell him about the imminent nomination of Harris.
“As I told the governor right then and there, you could have picked me up off the floor,” Goldstein said. “Bruce is eminently qualified to be a Supreme Court justice.”
Christie also nominated Phil Kwon, 44, to the state’s high court — Kwon is a Korean-American assistant attorney general.
“I am honored to nominate these two gentlemen,” Christie said at a Statehouse news conference. “I trust the Senate will take into account their extraordinary backgrounds and experience and will give them swift hearings.”