Same-sex marriage is now legal in the state of New Jersey. Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson ruled today that state officials must begin performing same-sex marriages on Oct. 21(nj.com). In a 53-page opinion, Jacobson states, “Same sex couples must be allowed to marry… to obtain equal protection of the law under the New Jersey constitution. “
New Jersey has become the latest state to legalize gay marriage, joining 13 other states and Washington, D.C., which have implemented gay marriage laws. Five were decided by court decision, six by legislature and three by popular vote. According to FreedomtoMarry.org, six more states offer protections that fall short of marriage but allow for some level of legally recognized civil unions of gay and lesbian couples.
In 2012, New Jersey passed a freedom to marry act but it was vetoed by Gov. Chris Christie, who opposes gay marriage. Today’s ruling butts heads once again with the Governor, who has already stated he will appeal the ruling “all the way to the (New Jersey) Supreme Court” (nj.com). Christie’s administration argues that the matter of gay marriage for the state’s same-sex couples cannot be decided by New Jersey law, since the main sticking point deals with federal not state benefits. After the U. S. Supreme Court extended hundreds of tax and inheritance benefits to same-sex couples in June this year, attorneys presenting the case ruled on today argued New Jersey lawmakers needed to revisit the question of same-sex marriage. Civil unions did not qualify for the legal protections granted by the Supreme Court ruling. New Jersey was left behind, and civil union couples were no more than “second-class” under the law.
Jacobson states the lack of gay marriage protections in New Jersey is harming same-sex couple, denying them the same benefits enjoyed by married couples. Couples living under civil unions have no access to federal tax benefits and protections, including FMLA and pensions.
The ruling was greeted with joy by New Jersey same-sex couples and those who have been fighting for the right to marry and all the legal implications that go with that right. Christie administration has stated the Governor would abide by the will of the voters, but it seems in this case, he does not seem to see this as a voter-willed circumstance. Spokesman Michael Drewniak states, “we will let the Supreme Court make this constitutional determination.”
Jacobson’s ruling comes from the petition of six couples seeking the right to marry in New Jersey, represented by attorneys from Garden State Equality and Lambda Legal. Advocacy groups are urging Christie to allow Jacobson’s ruling to remain unchallenged, but stand ready to continue the battle should the Governor follow through on his vow to appeal the decision. Executive director of Garden State Equality, Troy Stevenson says “we will…fight until we guarantee marriage for all couples.” A movement is underway to have the same-sex law Christie vetoed in 2012 overturned by the state legislature. There is little doubt Christie will stand his ground. There is also no question that same-sex couples will no longer accept a civil union as good enough.
Written by: Brandi Tasby
Christie Will Appeal