Same-Sex Marriage in New Jersey
By Snyder & Sarno on October 01, 2013
Same-Sex Marriage in New Jersey may be a reality soon. The legislature came close in 2006 after the New Jersey Supreme Court in Lewis v. Harris found that denying same-sex couples the rights and benefits that are given to heterosexual couples violates the equal protection guarantee of the New Jersey Constitution. However, the New Jersey Supreme Court left up to the legislature whether same-sex marriage would be authorized by statute or a parallel statute giving committed same sex couples the same rights and benefits that married couples have would be created. The legislature chose the latter and civil unions were authorized in New Jersey.
This separate structure of a civil union was challenged in the recent case of Garden State Equality v. Dow. In an opinion issued last week, the Superior Court judge found that subsequent to the United States Supreme Court’s invalidation of the Defense of Marriage Act in United States v. Windsor, federal agencies began extending benefits to same-sex married couples, but excluded same-sex civil union couples from those benefits. Thus, the judge found that the legislature’s denial of marriage to same-sex couples in New Jersey, means that those civil union couples are being denied the same benefits that married couples receive from the federal government. Therefore, the judge held that “same-sex couples must be allowed to marry in order to obtain equal protection of the law under the New Jersey Constitution.”
According to NJ.com, Governor Christie is planning to appeal and is seeking a stay to delay the start date for same sex marriages, which is slated for October 21, 2013. Should the stay be granted, same-sex couples would not be allowed to get married until the appeals process concludes. In the meantime, acting New Jersey Attorney General John Hoffman is asking the New Jersey Supreme Court to take the appeal immediately, bypassing the Appellate Division, to make a final determination of whether same-sex couples should be permitted to marry in New Jersey.
We will continue to report on the progress of this case through the appellate process. Please check back for frequent updates. In the meantime, if you have any questions about your New Jersey civil union, or about any other New Jersey family law matters, please contact the experienced New Jersey family lawyers at Snyder & Sarno at (973) 274-5200.
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