New Jersey Superior Court: state must offer marriage to same-sex couples (updated)

Timothy Kincaid

September 27th, 2013

In 2006, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that the state must offer the same rights and obligations to same sex couples that it offered to opposite sex couples. However, they allowed the legislature to create civil unions rather than marriage. However, when the US Supreme Court ruled that DOMA3 was unconstitutional, this changed the situation. Currently, the State of New Jersey offers two forms of couple recognition; heterosexuals get a type recognized by the Federal Government, while gays get a type that does not have federal recognition.

Today Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson ruled – in summary judgment – that New Jersey must offer marriage licenses to same sex couples. (NBC)

“The ineligibility of same-sex couples for federal benefits is currently harming same-sex couples in New Jersey in a wide range of contexts,” the judge said.

“Same-sex couples must be allowed to marry in order to obtain equal protection of the law under the New Jersey Constitution,” she wrote.

The ruling does not mean that same-sex marriages will begin immediately in New Jersey. The state has until Oct. 21 to either appeal or start the process to allow gay marriages.

Now it will fall upon Governor Chris Christie to decide whether to appeal the decision. While Christie has stated opposition to same-sex marriage (he favors civil unions), the voters in the state overwhelmingly support marriage equality.

At present, Christie’s position hasn’t hurt him and he holds a double-digit lead in polls for reelection. But this could go in several directions. If he appeals, it could serve as a reminder to the voters that he does not share their values. I doubt it would seriously hurt his chances for reelection, but it could hurt him in future contests.

Or, he could see this as an opportunity to do nothing and have a potentially troublesome issue go away. It seems increasingly likely that his marriage veto could be overturned with Republican support and Christie may prefer that his authority not appear to be challenged.

UPDATE: Christie has released a statement (Politico)

In a statement about an hour after the ruling, Christie’s press secretary said “Governor Christie has always maintained that he would abide by the will of the voters on the issue of marriage equality and called for it to be on the ballot this Election Day. Since the legislature refused to allow the people to decide expeditiously, we will let the Supreme Court make this constitutional determination.”

That sounds to me like he’ll be making an appeal.

Mark

September 27th, 2013

I realize there’s a lot of political commentary about Christie’s motives, but isn’t it at least possible that he means what he says–that he deeply believes gay and lesbian couples aren’t worthy of the dignity of marriage, and he’ll do everything in his power to prevent it from happening. He certainly has done more to block equal rights than any other politician in the country since late 2009.

Sir Andrew

September 27th, 2013

Yes, Tim. Christie has said that he will appeal the ruling. I think he is eager to get this out of the news so he can carry on with his re-election campaign. If too many people are talking about marriage equality he looks more and more like a bigot. Especially with his repeated insistence that the matter should be put to a vote of the people.

Everyone know that civil rights should not be subject to the votes of the people. And everyone knows that those who demand such are actually bigots hoping that the tyranny of the majority will continue to put the minority in their place. A public vote on civil rights is a bigot’s wet dream.

Richard Rush

September 28th, 2013

After NOM’s recent blog post trumpeting “Victory in Virginia!”
( http://www.nomblog.com/38009 ), I’m anticipating the next NOM blog post:

Victory in New Jersey! . . . Governor Christie vows to appeal illicit marriage decision by a rogue judge.

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