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October 27, 2006
SGN.org
Volume 34
Issue 43
 
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Thursday, Jan 21, 2021

 

 



 
N.J. Supremes to Require Marriage Equality
N.J. Supremes to Require Marriage Equality
"The name to be given to the statutory scheme that provides full rights and benefits to same-sex couples, whether marriage or some other term, is a matter left to the democratic process," noted the decision.

by Lisa Keen - SGN Contributing Writer

The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled Wednesday, October 25, that the state has no rational reason to deny same-sex couples the benefits of marriage and that the equal protection clause of the state constitution requires that gay couples "must be afforded on equal terms the same rights and benefits enjoyed by opposite-sex couples under the civil marriage statutes."

"The name to be given to the statutory scheme that provides full rights and benefits to samesex couples, whether marriage or some other term, is a matter left to the democratic process," noted the decision.

All seven justices joined in the conclusion about granting of benefits; but three justices-all Republican appointees-- dissented to say they believe the decision did not go far enough. They said samesex couples are entitled to the use of the term marriage as well.

The decision, which was issued at noon west coast time makes New Jersey the fourth state to rule that same-sex couples should have all the same benefits of marriage as heterosexual couples. It joins Vermont and Connecticut supreme courts in ruling that those benefits do not have to be provided through issuance of a license for "marriage." The New Jersey ruling most closely approximates that of Vermont's -ruling that the legislature can decide what term to use.

In explaining why four justices stopped short of simply requiring equal marriage rights for gays, Justice Barry Albin (an appointee of former Democrat Governor James McGreevey) said that, although the United States Supreme Court "has struck down laws that have unconstitutionally targeted gays and lesbians for disparate treatment& those cases fall far short of establishing a fundamental right to same-sex marriage&." "Despite the rich diversity of this State, the tolerance and goodness of its people, and the many recent advances made by gays and lesbians toward achieving social acceptance and equality under the law," wrote Albin, "the Court cannot find that the right to same-sex marriage is a fundamental right under our constitution."

The majority opinion also noted that the state's Domestic Partnership Act has "failed to bridge the inequality gap between committed same-sex couples and married opposite-sex couples."

"Significantly, the economic and financial inequities that are borne by same-sex domestic partners are also borne by their children," wrote Albin. "Further, even though same-sex couples are provided fewer benefits and rights by the Act, they are subject to more stringent requirements to enter into a domestic partnership than opposite-sex couples entering a marriage."

The majority opinion gives the state legislature 180 days to rewrite the state's laws to accommodate equal benefits for same-sex couples.

Democratic appointee Albin's full decision was joined by one of the court's four Republicans and its other two Democrats.

In a separate opinion which concurred with the granting of benefits but dissented from the proposal that the legislature choose what word to use in awarding the benefits, Chief Justice Deborah Poritz, a Republican appointee of former Governor Christine Todd Whitman, said, "I can find no principled basis&on which to distinguish those rights and benefits from the right to the title of marriage."

Poritz's dissent was joined by two other Republican appointees.

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