Court: Same-sex marriages can start Monday in New Jersey

Friday, October 18, 2013 - 11:00pm

The New Jersey Supreme Court on Friday denied the state's request to temporarily prevent same-sex marriages, clearing the way for same-sex couples to marry in the state starting Monday.

Gov. Chris Christie's administration appealed and asked the court to delay a lower court's September 27 order that the state must allow same-sex couples to marry beginning October 21, rather than give them the label "civil union."

The appeal will be heard in January. But the state Supreme Court on Friday declined to delay the September order in the meantime, writing that "the state has not shown a reasonable probability that it will succeed on the merits" of the appeal.

Some ceremonies already are planned for Monday. U.S. Senator-elect Cory Booker, the current Newark mayor, plans to recognize the marriages of several same-sex couples at 12:01 a.m.

In the September ruling, Judge Mary Jacobson of Mercer County Superior Court argued that civil unions, which the state already allows gay couples, don't go far enough because they, in some cases, illegally prevent them from getting federal benefits.

Her ruling cited the U.S. Supreme Court's June rejection of part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, a move that ensured same-sex spouses legally married in a state may receive federal benefits.

After the DOMA ruling, some federal agencies are extending benefits to legally married same-sex couples, but denying them to same-sex couples in "civil unions," Jacobson wrote.

"If the trend of federal agencies deeming civil union partners ineligible for benefits continues, plaintiffs will suffer even more, while their opposite-sex New Jersey counterparts continue to receive federal marital benefits for no reason other than the label placed upon their relationship by the state," Jacobson wrote.

"This unequal treatment requires that New Jersey extend civil marriage to same-sex couples to satisfy the equal protection guarantees of the New Jersey Constitution," she continued.

Jacobson ruled on a lawsuit that six same-sex couples and their children, as well as gay-rights group Garden State Equality, filed against the state.

Her ruling came more than a year after Christie vetoed a bill that would have legalized same-sex marriage in the state.

New Jersey has recognized civil unions between same-sex couples since 2007, after the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that the state must allow same-sex couples all the rights and benefits of marriage. As far as state rights and benefits went, civil unions and marriages differed only in label, Jacobson noted.

New Jersey is one of four states that offer civil unions, but not marriage, to same-sex couples. The others are Colorado, Hawaii and Illinois.

Same-sex marriage is legal in 13 U.S states California, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington as well as the District of Columbia.

Same-sex marriage is banned in every state not mentioned above, except for New Mexico, which has no laws banning or allowing it.


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