Citing a need for a trial record, the
New Jersey Supreme Court on Monday declined to consider new
arguments in a legal battle over gay marriage.
In the 2006 lawsuit Lewis v. Harris
the court unanimously agreed that it is unconstitutional to deny gay
and lesbian couples the rights granted to married heterosexual
couples and ordered the Legislature to remedy the situation.
Lawmakers responded by enacting a civil unions law.
Arguing that New Jersey's civil unions
law is not equal to marriage, gay activists, led by Garden State
Equality, the state's largest gay advocate, lobbied lawmakers to
approve a gay marriage law.
After New Jersey senators killed such a
law in January, prominent gay rights group Lambda Legal filed a
motion seeking marriage equality with the high court on behalf of the
plaintiffs in the original lawsuit.
In the court's split 3-3 ruling,
justices said the case could not be decided on “without the
development of an appropriate trial-like record” and encouraged
supporters to file a new lawsuit in a lower court.
“We are terribly disappointed about
today's ruling,” Hayley Gorenberg, deputy legal director at Lambda
Legal, said in a statement. “This ruling now relegates our
plaintiffs to second-class citizenship for even longer.”
Steve Goldstein, chair of Garden State
Equality, said the court's decision served to extend the state's
“Because of the legislature's
inability to act and the Supreme Court's decision today, New Jersey
continues in a caste system where an entire people are thrown aside
into a profoundly inferior status, spit on, dumped on, utterly
degraded, by hospitals and employers who mock the term 'civil
Lambda Legal said it was “assessing
possible next steps in Superior Court.”