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Religious Tolerance logo

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

2009: Attempted reactivation of
Lewis v. Harris case. Public support for SSM.

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Earlier information about the case

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

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2009-MAR-18: Announcements about reactivating the Lewis v. Harris lawsuit:

Garden State Equality and Lambda Legal announced that they were attempting to reactivate the Lewis v. Harris lawsuit -- the original New Jersey same-sex marriage case -- with the New Jersey Supreme Court in the hopes of creating marriage equality for same-sex couples in the state.

The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) -- a group that opposes marriage for same-sex couples -- has pledged to oppose the lawsuit. Their Executive Director, Brian Brown, said:

"The people of New Jersey do not support same-sex marriage. They have made that crystal clear through their elected representatives who have voted resoundingly to preserve marriage between one man and one woman. Once again, gay marriage activists are going behind the people’s backs to seek to impose their agenda on the rest of society. NOM will vigorously fight this attempt. ... NOM urges the Christie Administration to provide a vigorous defense of marriage as being between one man and one woman. This is what New Jerseyans, and Americans, believe in and support and what the people’s representatives in New Jersey have voted to preserve. It’s a shame that special interest groups like Garden State Equality and Lambda Legal do not trust the people and are trying to impose their will on society through a handful of unelected judges. We will fight them every step of the way." 1

In reality, the "agenda" concerning the recognition of same-sex loving, committed relationships was established in 2006 by the state Supreme Court by a vote of 7 to 0. Faced with a conflict between:

  • The tradition and legislation in the state which banned equal treatment of loving, committed couples, and

  • The state constitution which required equal treatment of all persons -- lesbian, gay, bisexual and heterosexual,

the court ruled that the state must allow same-sex couples to either marry or be recognized by the government with a system that is equivalent to marriage. They chose the latter route, and created civil unions. In practice, there is general agreement that this has created a two tier system, with full marriage for opposite-sex couples and a quasi marriage system for same-sex couples. Some suggest that the requirements of both the constitution and the Supreme Court for equal treatment have not been met, and that the only way to achieve true equality for all loving committed couples is to allow every couple to marry, whether they be of the same sex or opposite sexes.

The Dallas Voice, a news source for LGBT individuals and couples in Texas reported that:

"Of the first 1,000 people who were civilly united, half filed complaints of unequal treatment."

The Newark, NJ Star Ledger reported:

"Civil union couples still have trouble being recognized as next-of-kin by employers when they seek benefits and by hospital officials when one partner is ill. Not surprisingly, this separate institution turns out to be unequal." 2

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Do the people of New Jersey support SSM?:

Nobody really knows. A paper published by Jeffrey Lax and Justin Phillips of Columbia University collated all of the public opinion surveys on SSM from each state. Their article is titled "Gay rights in the states: Public opinion and policy responsiveness;" it appeared in the American Political Science Review. 3 We have reproduced some of their major graphs.

They report a steady and rapid increase in public acceptance of SSM in all states except for Utah.

In New Jersey, they found:

  • 24% support in 1994 - 1995
  • 41% support in 2003 - 2004
  • 48% support in 2008 - 2009.

These data are supported by a Gallup Poll of 2001-MAY. It showed that 44% of adults favored SSM at that time. 4

One might extrapolate the Jeffrey-Lax and Phillips data and predict a very slight majority support for SSM by mid-2010. However, it is uncertain whether this would translate into success for marriage equality in the polls if a plebiscite were to be held at that time. Such a plebiscite would be probably be preceded by months of fear-based TV ads that might well depress current levels of support as they have in other states. Also, polls are taken of a random sampling of adults and thus represent actual public opinion; plebiscites are voted upon only by those adults who are sufficiently motivated to come out on election day and vote. These two groups may well have different levels of support and opposition to SSMM in New Jersey.

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Later information about the case

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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. "National Organization for Marriage Pledges to Fight Against Gay Marriage Lawsuit in New Jersey," National Organization for Marriage, 2010-MAR-19, at:
  2. David Taffet, "Lambda Legal reopens NJ same-sex marriage case, Dallas Voice, 2010-MAR-24, at:
  3. Jeffrey Lax and Justin Phillips, "Gay rights in the states: Public opinion and policy responsiveness," American Political Science Review, Volume 103 (3), 2009.
  4. "Policies & Polls," New Jersey Family Policy Council, Page 7, 2001, at: This is a PDF file.
  5. Civil unions are discriminatory," Lambda Legal, 2006-NOV-01, at:

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

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Copyright © 2009 & 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Parts originally written: 2010-MAR-24
Latest update: 2010-JUL-13
Author: B.A. Robinson

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