TRENTON – A New Jersey judge heard arguments today that the state’s marriage laws violate the rights of same-sex couples.
Following a 2006 state Supreme Court ruling that said same-sex couples could not be denied rights and benefits enjoyed by opposite-sex couples, New Jersey passed a civil union law that stops short of calling those unions “marriage.”
The suit, filed in 2011, argued that New Jersey’s civil union law did not meet the standard for equality.
After this summer’s U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down a key provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act and opened the way for legally married same-sex couples to receive the same federal benefits enjoyed by opposite-sex couples, the case took on new importance.
Advocates for same-sex marriage argue that the U.S. Supreme Court ruling does not apply to New Jersey’s civil unions, so same-sex couples must be allowed to marry to meet the previous state Supreme Court standard.
Christie administration attorneys argued that marriages and civil unions are equal under state law and said that inequality in federal law is better suited to be challenged in federal court.
Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a marriage equality bill last year and said that the U.S. Supreme Court made a “bad decision” when it overturned a legal provision that defined marriage as between a man and a woman.
A decision in this case is not expected any earlier than September.
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