Friday the New Jersey Supreme Court, agreeing with the lower court’s September 27 ruling, denied the State’s motion to postpone allowing same-sex couples to marry. Lambda Legal had filed a brief on behalf of Garden State Equality, New Jersey’s statewide LGBT advocacy organization, and six same-sex couples who seek the freedom to marry, asking the Court to deny the motion for a stay.
In Friday’s decision, the Court wrote:
“What is the public’s interest in a case like this? Like Judge Jacobson, we can find no public interest in depriving a group of New Jersey residents of their constitutional right to equal protection while the appeals process unfolds.”
“The long wait in New Jersey is finally over – the door is open for love, commitment and equality under the law! This is a huge victory for New Jersey’s same-sex couples and their families.” said Hayley Gorenberg, Deputy Legal Director of Lambda Legal and the organization’s lead attorney on the case. “Beginning October 21, New Jersey’s same-sex couples will be able to marry and have the critically important rights, benefits, and protections they need for their families. Take out the champagne glasses – wedding bells will soon be ringing in New Jersey!”
“Today the New Jersey Supreme Court has stood on the side of equality and refused to delay the freedom to marry. We have been fighting an uphill battle for the dignity of marriage for years and we are finally within sight of the summit. However, this is not the time to rest, it is the time to recommit, and it is the time to pull out all the stops. We have to continue to push because we are in the fight of our lives. We will continue to demand that action be taken at the state house. We will not rest until we guarantee the freedom to marry to every New Jerseyan, and we are certain that it can never be taken away,” said Troy Stevenson, Executive Director of Garden State Equality.
In its 20-page opinion explaining why it would not grant the stay prior to the state’s appeal of Judge Jacobson’s ruling, the Supreme Court wrote that the State of New Jersey has neither demonstrated that its underlying legal claim is settled nor that it has a reasonable probability of success on the merits.
“The Court wrote that ‘[t]he State has presented no explanation for how it is tangibly or actually harmed by allowing same-sex couples to marry,’” explained Marriage Equality USA (MEUSA) Legal & Policy Director John Lewis. “Rather, the Court determined that same-sex couples and their families suffer ‘immediate and concrete violations of [the] right to equal protection under the law’ and an ‘ongoing injury that … cannot be repaired…at a later time.’”
“[Friday’s] decision provides tremendous momentum at a key moment in our movement,” said MEUSA Executive Director Brian Silva. “Meanwhile, Marriage Equality USA and our project, the National Equality Action Team [NEAT], are working every day to make the freedom to marry a reality in New Jersey, Hawaii, Illinois, and nationwide.”
Said founder and president of Freedom to Marry, Evan Wolfson: “The state Supreme Court’s rejection of Governor Christie’s effort to string out the denial of the freedom to marry is joyous news to couples in New Jersey, who can now begin marrying at long last, just like their neighbors in New York and Delaware.” Wolfson added, “And every day, every wedding, every protection made available will show that families are helped and no one hurt when gay couples share in the freedom to marry. While the Supreme Court considers a final ruling in the case over the next several months, the legislature can and should move swiftly to finish the job it began when it passed the freedom to marry bill in 2012. Lawmakers should get on the right side of history, overriding the governor’s veto and making the freedom to marry the law of the land in New Jersey for once and for all.“
In June 2011, Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit seeking the freedom to marry, arguing that barring same-sex couples from marriage and relegating them to civil union violates both the New Jersey Constitution and the Fourteenth Amendment of the federal Constitution. This June, the Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of DOMA, and Lambda Legal filed a motion for summary judgment in the New Jersey case, arguing that by barring marriage, the state of New Jersey now denies same-sex couples the full range of federal benefits, rights, and protections available after the Windsor decision. On September 27, 2013, the New Jersey Superior Court ruled that same-sex couples in New Jersey must be allowed to marry and set an effective date of October 21.
The case has been appealed by the state and will be heard by the New Jersey Supreme Court on January 6 or 7, 2014. Because there is no stay on the decision, same-sex couples have the freedom to marry beginning on Monday.
In 2002, Lambda Legal filed a historic case, Lewis v. Harris, seeking marriage equality on behalf of seven New Jersey couples. The case reached the New Jersey Supreme Court in 2006. The high court ruled unanimously that same-sex couples must be provided all the benefits and responsibilities of marriage, although it declined at that time to mandate that marriage was specifically required, and gave the state legislature 180 days to provide equality. The legislature hastily passed a civil union law in December 2006, and began issuing civil union licenses to lesbian and gay couples in February 2007. In both the 2002 Lewis case as well as the current case, Garden State Equality. v. Dow, the Gibbons Firm has been a strong pro bono partner with Lambda Legal, contributing to the fight for the freedom to marry in New Jersey.
Meet all the plaintiffs and their families.
From Marriage Equality USA’s National Map page:
Over 30 percent of Americans live in states with full, state-level equality, and 50 percent of Americans live in 22 states (or counties or cities) that recognize various forms of same- gender relationships:
From Marriage Equality USA’s Current Status pages:
Since 1993, every American state has taken some position on marriage equality. Each state allows — or bans — various forms of marriage via the state constitution and/or state laws. Some states have full marriage equality, some have restricted equality, and the rest ban all unions except one-man-one-woman couples. About 70 federal and state marriage-related lawsuits are underway nationwide.
In 2013, lawmakers, judges, and voters in most states, as well as federal judges and Congress, are deciding whether to allow — or ban — various levels of equality.