In this web site:
"SSM" refers to same-sex marriage;
LGBT refers to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transsexuals
2013-SEP-27: Superior Court judge issued her ruling, and orders New Jersey to allow SSMs:
Kate Zernike and Marc Santora of the New York Times wrote that Judge Mary C. Jacobson of the State Superior Court in Mercer County:
"... ruled on Friday that the state must allow same-sex couples to marry, saying that not doing so deprives them of rights that were guaranteed by the United States Supreme Court in June.
It is the first time a court has struck down a state’s refusal to legalize same-sex marriage as a direct result of the Supreme Court [DOMA] ruling, ... With lawsuits pending in other states, it could presage other successful challenges across the country." 1
Judge Jacobson ruled:
"Whereas before [the 2013-JUN-26 DOMA Supreme Court ruling] same-sex couples in New Jersey would have been denied federal benefits regardless of what their relationship was called, these couples are now denied benefits solely as a result of the [civil union] label placed upon them by the State. ... The ineligibility of same-sex couples for [1,138] federal benefits is currently harming same-sex couples in New Jersey in a wide range of contexts. Same-sex couples must be allowed to marry in order to obtain equal protection of the law under the New Jersey Constitution." 1,2
Judge Jacobson ruled that same-sex marriage licenses shall be available starting 2013-OCT-21 unless her ruling is appealed and the Appeals Court or the state Supreme Court orders a stay of her ruling.
Governor Chris Christie [R] was in an awkward position. If he follows the court order, his chances of reaching his personal goal of being elected President of the U.S. would be reduced to essentially zero because of the opposition of many federal Republicans to marriage equality. His only options are:
To appeal Judge Jacobson's ruling to the Appeals Court, or
To appeal it directly to the New Jersey Supreme Court, or
To allow the Superior Court decision to stand and permanently give up his hopes of ever becoming President.
Meanwhile, progressive legislators have been trying to obtain sufficient votes to override Governor Christie's veto of a bill passed by the Senate and Assembly that would have legalized SSM. They are close to achieving sufficient support among the legislators. This court decision might provide the necessary stimulus to convince some legislators who are on the fence to vote to overturn the veto.
Within two hours, Governor Christie's office reacted to the court ruling. The New York Times reported:
"His office said it would appeal to the state’s highest court. And he is likely to seek a stay preventing same-sex marriages from beginning on OCT-21, as the [Superior Court] judge ordered. 1
Michael Drewniak, a spokesperson for Governor Christie said that the governor:
"... 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 [state] Supreme Court make this constitutional determination." 3
This seems most likely to mean that he would appeal Judge Jacobson's ruling directly to the state Supreme Court, rather than indirectly via the Appeals Court. Presumably, the Supreme Court will place a stay on the lower court's decision, to prevent loving, committed same-sex couples from marrying on or after 2013-OCT-21.
Some reactions to Judge Jacobson's decision by those promoting marriage equality:
Cindy Meneghin describes how important it would be to marry her highschool sweetheart Maureen Kilian. They have been partners for 39 years and live in Butler, NJ. The explosions of cheers in the background make the audio track somewhat difficult to hear in spots:
Hayley Gorenberg of Lambda Legal, who argued the New Jersey case on behalf of Garden State Equality and six gay and lesbian couples and their children, said:
"Other states may not have a Lewis decision that says that not giving same-sex couples an equal footing violates the Constitution, but I think that argument is available, and a vibrant argument to make. ... [The Supreme Court's DOMA decision] made the freedom to marry even more urgent than before because the state stood between these families and a host of federal protections, benefits, rights and responsibilities." 1
State Senator Barbara Buono [D], said that the Court's ruling is:
"... a stark reminder that Governor Christie stands on the wrong side of history. At every turn, he has prevented our gay brothers and sisters from enjoying the same rights as other New Jerseyans. The courts have spoken and the people have spoken. It is time for [Governor] Chris Christie [R] to stop blocking equal rights for all New Jerseyans. ... He must now make a decision whether to continue to be an obstacle or to be part of the solution." 5
As is very common among political commentators and legislators, she referred only to lesbians and gays in same-sex relationships, while ignoring bisexuals.
Troy Stevenson, executive director of Garden State Equality, said:
"Today means that finally couples in the state of New Jersey will have the dignity of marriage. It means they've been recognized and have the freedom of marriage." 6
That was a true statement when it was made. However, a higher state court is expected to stay this ruling shortly.
He also said:
"We have been saying it for months and it stands true today: through litigation or legislation, we will win the dignity of marriage this year. We just won the first round through litigation and we will continue to fight until we guarantee marriage for all New Jersey couples." 5
U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D, NJ) issued a statement saying:
"I am thrilled this court decision now brings us closer to fulfilling our nation's promise of equality." 6
Udi Ofer, executive director of the New Jersey chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said that the court:
"... recognized the love and commitment that same-sex couples share is no different from anyone else's." 6