Several of the gay couples whose 2006
landmark case resulted in civil unions for New Jersey are returning
In Lewis V. Harris, the state's
top court 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 modeled after Vermont's law. (Vermont
has since approved marriage for gay couples.)
After lawmakers rejected a gay marriage
law last year, the couples asked the New Jersey Supreme Court to
consider new arguments in their legal battle. But the court
declined, citing a need for a trial record.
On Wednesday, the couples are expected
to return to court. In the filing, five of the seven couples are
joined by their children.
Gay groups argue civil unions are
inferior to marriage.
“The separate and inherently unequal
statutory scheme singles out lesbians and gay men for inferior
treatment on the basis of their sexual orientation and sex and also
has a profound stigmatizing effect on them, their children and other
lesbian and gay New Jerseyans,” lawyers wrote in their filing.
Steven Goldstein, chair of Garden State
Equality, the state's largest gay rights group, said last June that
the court's decision against re-opening the case extended 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
union,'” Goldstein said.
The action comes less than a week after
neighboring New York legalized gay marriage without a court order.