New Jersey Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson ruled Friday that
the state must allow gay and lesbian couples to marry.
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit are six gay couples and their children
who argue that the state's civil unions law fails to satisfy a 2006
New Jersey Supreme Court ruling declaring that gay couples are
entitled to the same rights and benefits that married heterosexual
The AP reported that Governor Chris Christie, a Republican who
last year vetoed a bill approved by lawmakers which sought to
legalize gay marriage, said through a spokesman that he plans to
appeal the decision.
Jacobson made her ruling effective October 21. That is, the
Christie administration has enough time to file its appeal and block
implementation of the order.
As a result of the Supreme Court's decision in June striking down
the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the federal government now
recognizes the marriages of gay couples for the purpose of benefits.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs in the New Jersey case said that the
DOMA ruling “made clear that those who are not married, including
those consigned instead to civil unions, are not entitled to the
federal rights, benefits, protections and responsibilities that the
Windsor decision extends to those who are married.”
Jacobson agreed, saying that civil unions exclude gay couples
“from certain federal benefits that legally married same-sex
couples are able to enjoy.”
Lawyers representing the state argued that it was not New Jersey
denying the couples benefits but the federal government by not
recognizing civil unions.
The issue is also being played out in the Legislature, where
activists are lobbying for a vote to override Christie's veto.
“Today’s court decision affirms what loving and committed
couples in New Jersey have known all along: civil union is no
substitute for the protections and dignity of marriage,” Evan
Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry, said in an
emailed statement. “Every day of denial in New Jersey is an
emotional and tangible burden on same-sex couples and their families.
Now that civil union has been proven unconstitutional in the court of
law, it's the time for the legislature to act quickly. As a lead
partner of NJ United for Marriage, Freedom to Marry is working hard
to secure the votes needed to override Governor Christie’s veto on
New Jersey’s freedom to marry legislation so that the long wait
ends for committed couples in the Garden State.”