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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex marriage (SSM) in New Jersey via the state courts

2013-OCT: Re: Garden State Equality v. Dow:
State appeals Superior Court's denial of stay.
State Supreme Court accepts direct appeal of case.
Star-Ledger Editorial Board supports SSM.

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Earlier information about the case

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In this web site:
"SSM" refers to same-sex marriage;
LGBT refers to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transsexuals

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2013-OCT-11: Government appeals the denial of a stay by Superior Court:

The Attorney General's office immediately appealed Judge Jacobson's denial to the state appeals court, asking that they stay the lower court's ruling. The appeal reads, in part:

"The [U.S.] Supreme Court recognized that the issue of how to define marriage has far-reaching social implications, and alteration of the traditional definition of marriage would render a profound change in the public consciousness of a social institution of ancient origin." 1

They also said:

"It is in the public interest that such a profound change, if it is to occur, take place not because a single judge — no matter how diligent, thoughtful, and thorough — ordered it, but rather because the [State] Supreme Court, the ultimate arbiter, has deemed it necessary."

Judge Jacobson disagreed with the state's appeal, saying that any harm to the state:

"... pales in comparison to the concrete harm caused to Plaintiffs by their current ineligibility for many federal marital benefits, and the significant litigation burden they would have to shoulder to challenge federal denial of marital benefits to civil union couples." 2

Judge Jacobson is a devout Roman Catholic who has sent her children to Catholic University. She has an excellent reputation for fairness and objectivity within the legal/court systems:

Kenneth Levy, a retired Superior Court judge has known Jacobson since their days in the state Attorney General’s Office. He said:

"The only thing that would play into her decisions would be the law, the facts and the application of the facts to the law. ... Judges are human beings. But if you’re going to be a good judge, you have to divorce yourself from your personal biases and your personal religious beliefs to the extent that that’s possible. To me she’s one of the best judges in the state. Professional. Totally unbiased."

Bennet Zurofsky, a Newark civil liberties lawyer, said.

"She thinks hard about things. ... She’s not moved by emotional arguments. She’s moved by arguments firmly rooted in precedent or logically developed from precedent. She rules from the head, not the heart." 1

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2013-OCT-11: New Jersey Supreme Court accepts a direct appeal in the Garden State Equality v. Dow case:

The Supreme Court agreed to accept a direct appeal of the Superior Court's ruling in the SSM case, thus bypassing the appeals court. That should greatly speed up the final decision on SSMs in New Jersey. The normal path would have been to appeal the Superior Court ruling to the Appeals Court, and then -- almost certainly -- to have the case further appealed to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court also agreed to hear an emergency appeal on whether:

  • Marriage licenses are to be made available to same-sex couples on OCT-21 as specified by the Superior Court, or

  • Licenses will remain unavailable until -- at least -- after the court decides the case in early 2014.

The first briefs in the Garden State Equality v. Dow case are due on NOV-04. Oral arguments are scheduled for 2014-JAN-06 and 07. Timing may be critical, because the last opportunity that the Legislature has to attempt to override the Governor's veto expires on 2014-JAN-14.

Attorney Hayley Gorenberg, who represents the plaintiffs, said:

"It shows the case is of public importance. Clearly, it’s of central importance, pivotal importance, vital importance to the couples we represent that their families have the protection and benefits available to every married couple." 3

Sen. Raymond Lesniak, (D) is a co-sponsor of the same-sex marriage bill passed by the Legislature but vetoed by Governor Christie. He said

"I am looking forward to a determination by the Supreme Court, so we can start popping corks on Oct. 20th. ... We are also moving ahead with the override [in the Legislature]. ... I hope and expect the Supreme Court to reject Christie's request for a stay of Judge Jacobson's decision, so gay couples in civil unions will receive the federal benefits they will be entitled to on Oct. 21. They shouldn't wait a day longer." 3

John Tomicki is president of the New Jersey Coalition to Preserve and Protect Marriage -- a state group opposed to marriage equality. He is unhappy with the court case. He said that since the New Jersey courts have:

"... a penchant for legislating from the bench. . . this is not a wise path. This should go before the public in a constitutional amendment." 3

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2013-OCT-13: Star-Ledger Editorial Board recommends that Governor Christie "step aside on gay marriage:"

The Editorial Board wrote:

"Barring a court intervention, New Jersey is mere days from the peals of long-silenced wedding bells for gay marriage. Last week, a judge ruled for the second time that same-sex couples can marry — for real, this time — beginning a week from tomorrow [on OCT-21].

And once again, Gov. Chris Christie wants to block the path to the altar.

For a Republican with presidential aspirations, it’s the predictable play. Christie, however, should be more concerned with his legacy. And that means acknowledging the nation’s steady march toward marriage equality and getting out of its way.

Last month, a Superior Court judge ordered the state to permit same-sex marriages, starting next week [on OCT-21]. Civil unions — New Jersey’s alternative — don’t carry the same rights and privileges as a bona fide marriage and therefore, Judge Mary Jacobson ruled, they’re unconstitutional.

The Christie administration appealed Jacobson’s ruling and the Oct. 21 start date. On Thursday, [OCT-10] Jacobson rejected the appeal, saying a delay would only prolong the assault on gay couples’ rights. Christie appealed that ruling, too, and on Friday [OCT-11], the state Supreme Court agreed to take the case.

Asked about his gay marriage opposition during Tuesday’s debate with gubernatorial opponent Barbara Buono, Christie repeated his stance that New Jersey voters should decide the issue in a referendum.

'If we’re going to change the core definition of marriage,' he said, 'I don’t think that should be decided by 121 politicians in Trenton or seven judges on the [state] Supreme Court.'

We’re past that point, Governor. Thirteen states and 16 countries have legalized gay marriage — including South Africa, where apartheid was the law until 1994. More than half the United States supports marriage equality. Among young people, it’s 70 percent, so it’s clear what the future holds.

New Jersey’s Legislature approved gay marriage in 2012, only to see it vetoed by Christie. Now the courts have opened the door to marriage equality and, again, Christie stands in the way.

It no longer needs to be pointed out that Christie is playing to a larger, more conservative audience these days. His re-election on Nov. 5 is as close to a pre-Election Day certainty as there is. That gives him freedom to jockey for the GOP’s presidential nomination in 2016, for which he’ll need to prove himself more severely conservative. Expect this rightward shift to continue.

Christie’s words — leave it to voters, not judges or politicians — portray a man who wants history to take its own course, without meddling from the government.

His actions, on the other hand, have stonewalled New Jersey’s march toward equality at every turn.

Christie could borrow a page from President Obama, who allowed his stance on same-sex marriage to evolve and ultimately dropped the federal government’s defense of the doomed Defense of Marriage Act. Or from Christie’s own party, Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, who reversed course on same-sex marriage after learning his son is gay.

Christie says New Jersey’s best path toward a marriage equality decision is to hold a referendum. That gives Christie his political out — and leaves the basic rights of gay people subject to the whims of a political campaign. The civil liberties of a minority shouldn’t be subject to majority rule.

The popular consensus on same-sex marriage is inevitable. Christie can position himself on the right side of history, in this case, simply by getting out of its way." 4

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This topic continues in the next essay

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Thomas Zambito, "N.J. same-sex marriage debate is background noise for judge with Bayonne roots," Star-Ledger, 2013-OCT-13, at:
  2. "Judge denies state's request for stay of gay marriage ruling," Asbury Park Press, 2013-OCT-10, at:
  3. Salvador Rizzo, "N.J. Supreme Court agrees to hear Christie's gay marriage appeal," The Star-Ledger, 2013-OCR-11, at:
  4. Star-Ledger Editorial Board, "Gov. Christie should step aside on gay marriage," Star-Ledger, 2013-OCT-13, at:
  5. CNN Political Unit, "Cory Booker to conduct same-sex marriages in New Jersey," CNN, 2013-OCT-18, at:
  6. Kevin McArdie, "Same-Sex Marriage Questions Remain in New Jersey, New Jersey 101.5, 2013-OCT-17, at:
  7. Joseph Ax, "New Jersey top court rules gay marriages can begin on Monday," Reuters, 2013-OCT-18, at:
  8. "New Jersey set for rush of same-sex marriages on Monday," Associated Press, 2013-OCT-19. at:

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Site navigation: Home > Homosexuality > Same-sex marriage > SSM Menu > New Jersey > here

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Copyright © 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2013-OCT-09
Latest update: 2013-OCT-20
Author: B.A. Robinson

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