TRENTON – State Sen. Raymond Lesniak has asked Acting Attorney General John Hoffman to re-evaluate New Jersey’s civil union law and acknowledge that it violates the state constitution, according to a PolitickerNJ.com report.
Lesniak (D-Union), a proponent of marriage equality and sponsor of legislation vetoed by Republican Gov. Chris Christie that would recognize same-sex marriage, called upon Hoffman to concur with the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment in Garden State Equality v. Dow.
“As a matter of law, civil unions do not qualify for federal benefits as same sex married couples do,” Lesniak wrote in a letter to Hoffman.
Following last week’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down a key component of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, Lesniak predicted that New Jersey courts would soon allow gay marriage within the state.
“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,” Lesniak 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.
State Senate President Stephen Sweeney also plans to schedule a vote to override Christie’s veto of the gay marriage bill, but will need support from at least some Republican senators for it to succeed.
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