Judge Mary Jacobson of Mercy County Superior Court has ruled that gay couples can marry in New Jersey. She has set the date for 21 October for marriages to begin unless the state appeals the decision.
Jacobson cited in her decision the recent US Supreme Court ruling negating Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act. Jacobson wrote that “This unequal treatment requires that New Jersey extend civil marriage to same-sex couples to satisfy equal protection guarantees of the New Jersy Constitution as interpreted by the New Jersey Supreme Court in Lewis. Same-sex couples must be allowed to marry in order to obtain equal protection of the law under the New Jersey Constitution.”
Six same-sex couples and their children sued New Jersey arguing that civil unions were not equal and that it lead to unfair treatment. This is especially true given the fact that the US federal government does not recognize civil unions.
Lambda Legal deputy legal director Hayley Gorenberg stated “This news is thrilling. We argued that limiting lesbians and gay men to civil union is unfair and unconstitutional, and now the Court has agreed.” Lambda Legal has been representing the couples and their children.
In 2006, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples were entitled to the same rights and benefits as opposite-sex couples. The New Jersey legislature created civil unions; however, while they offered some rights and protections for same-sex couples they were deemed to be inherently unequal.
This inequality got worse when the DOMA was partially struck down. Couples in civil unions are not entitled to the same rights as married couples.
It is quite likely that Governor Chris Christie’s administration will be appealing the decision. His attorney general, John Hoffman, argued that the federal government is now the one discriminating by not giving the same legal recognition to civil unions as it does marriage. Christie urged the court to “reserve the name of marriage for heterosexual couples.” That statement largely undermined the argument that the federal government was the one doing the discriminating.
Christie’s press secretary released as statement from the New Jersey governor saying “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.”
Voting on a civil right is inherently unjust in that it gives the majority too much power over the rights of the minority. Additionally, the push to vote on same-sex marriage is not as strong as it use to be in Conservative circles given the trouncing that occurred for the anti-same-sex marriage people in 2012.