STATE – The New Jersey courts will soon weigh in on the issue of gay marriage. Following last week’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that invalidated a key part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act and extended legal benefits to same sex married couples, Garden State Equality will file a motion for summary judgment in a case to determine if New Jersey’s civil unions unconstitutionally deny couples the rights extended married couples.
Garden State Equality has until Wednesday, July 3, to file its motion, and the state has until Aug. 2 to respond. Assignment Judge Mary Jacobson has scheduled oral arguments for Aug. 15.
Supporters of same-sex marriage believe the U.S. Supreme Court ruling will force New Jersey’s courts to recognize gay marriage. “The DOMA ruling means that the New Jersey Supreme Court will soon allow gay marriage in the state,” said state Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union), who co-sponsored a bill to legalize same-sex marriage that Republican Gov. Chris Christie vetoed last year.
“The U. S. Supreme Court’s decision automatically makes New Jersey’s Domestic Partnership Law invalid because domestic partnerships will not provide the same rights and protections as marriage under federal law. Federal benefits will now be available to same-sex marriages but not to domestic partnerships in New Jersey. This unequal treatment violates the state constitution,” he said.
In 2007, the Legislature enacted a law allowing same-sex couples to be legally joined through civil unions, which extend some but not all of the legal benefits enjoyed by married couples. In 2011, Garden State Equality sued former state Attorney General Paula Dow, alleging that the civil union law violates the state and federal constitutions.
New Jersey lawmakers are also considering a measure to put the question on the election ballot, even though Democratic leaders believe that is inappropriate for a civil rights issue. Democrats would need Republican support to overturn Christie’s veto of a gay marriage bill.
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