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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 4 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 40
Christie appeals NJ court ruling on marriage
Section One
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Christie appeals NJ court ruling on marriage

Lambda Legal vows fight; marriages could begin Oct. 31

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has appealed a court decision ordering the state to marry Gay and Lesbian couples. In response, Lambda Legal said it would enter the case to prevent Christie from blocking the court order.

Acting New Jersey Attorney General John Hoffman filed the appeal on behalf of the Christie administration on September 30, with letters to the trial judge and the state's Supreme Court asking for a stay, or postponement, of the decision pending further hearings.

New Jersey Superior Court Judge Mary C. Jacobson ruled on September 28 that the state's civil union law unconstitutionally deprives same-sex couples of federal benefits that are available only to married couples under the terms of the U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down DOMA.

'The ineligibility of same-sex couples for federal benefits is currently harming same-sex couples in New Jersey in a wide range of contexts,' Judge Jacobson wrote in her ruling.

'Same-sex couples must be allowed to marry in order to obtain equal protection of the law under the New Jersey Constitution.'

DEADLINE IMPOSED
Jacobson ordered the state of New Jersey to begin same-sex marriages in one month - on October 31.

Immediately after Hoffman announced he would seek to stay the court ruling allowing Gay and Lesbian couples to marry, Lambda Legal said it would fight the state's appeal.

'We'll fight the state's efforts to stay this decision,' Lambda Deputy Legal Director Hayley Gorenberg said in a statement.

'We're going to do everything we can to make sure same-sex couples can begin making plans to marry starting on the date set by the court - October 21. We will file our opposition on Friday [October 4] and we'll be making the case that we are likely to win, and any delay in allowing same-sex couples to marry is too great a hardship to allow a stay.'

CIVIL UNIONS NOT ENOUGH
New Jersey is no stranger to court cases involving the rights of same-sex couples. In 2006, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled unanimously in the case of Lewis v. Harris that Gay and Lesbian couples were entitled to the same rights and benefits as opposite-sex spouses.

In that case, the court stopped short of saying same-sex couples had a fundamental right to marry, and in an unusual step the justices instructed the state legislature to define how to confer equal protection. The result was the state's civil union law.

Jacobson explicitly referred to the 2006 decision in her ruling that civil unions did not, in fact, afford equal protection to same-sex couples.

'Under these circumstances, the current inequality visited upon same-sex civil union couples offends the New Jersey Constitution, creates an incomplete set of rights that Lewis sought to prevent, and is not compatible with 'a reasonable conception of basic human dignity,' she wrote, quoting from the decision.

MAYOR READY TO WED
Meanwhile, the mayor of a small New Jersey town just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia promised to officiate at the state's first same-sex wedding.

Mayor David DelVecchio of Lambertville, the 2012 New Jersey Mayor of the Year, said he would perform New Jersey's first same-sex marriage if Gov. Christie's appeal is unsuccessful.

'This is just a continuation of the first civil union,' DelVecchio said in an interview. 'If a stay is not granted on the 21st, we're going to move forward with this.'

Several couples have already expressed interest in being married, he added.

Even if Christie's appeal is successful, New Jersey may soon see Gay and Lesbian marriages. Democratic legislative leaders said they believe they can get the votes to override Christie's 2012 veto of a marriage equality bill. They have until January 2013 to do so.

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