Wednesday, October 25, 2006
New Jersey state supreme court rules on same-sex couples
On Wednesday, October 25, 2006 the New Jersey state Supreme Court (in Trenton) ruled that couples consisting of two adults have the same rights whether a couple's members are of the same or of the opposite biological gender. The vote was 4-3.
The Court gave the state legislature six months write legislation putting this in to effect. But it stopped short of ordering the legislature to create "marriage" for same sex couples (I sound like The Washington Times here in putting the word into quotes!). It would be acceptable to create a civil union and call it that but give the same rights and obligations as "marriage."
It is my take that the court is sensitive to the possibility that gay individuals can find themselves in second class status, at the whim of the needs of heterosexuals to have others support their marriages, without explicitly equal rights.
New Jersey does not have a law prohibiting recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages, so in this sense it is a more critical testing ground that is Massachusetts. However, right now Massachusetts is the only state that recongizes "marriage" for same-sex couples and can call it that.
The name of the case is Mark Lewis and Dennis Winslow, et al. v. Gwendolyn L. Harris, etc., et al, (A-68-05).
Findlaw has made the opinion available at this
on a PDF file.
An important quote from the Opinion:
"Although we cannot find that a fundamental right to same-sex marriage exists in this state, the unequal dispensation of rights and benefits to committed same-sex partners can no longer be tolerated under our state constitution," as written by Judge Barry Albin.
The AP/CNN news story is at this link.
The Washington Post has a story on Oct 26, 2006 by Michael Powell and Robert Shulman, "N.J. Ruling Mandates Rights for Gay Unions: State Court Does Not Specify 'Marriage'". at this link.
The New York Times has a story by David W. Chen, "New Jersey Court Backs Full Rights for Gay Couples, But Justices Direct Legislature to Decide on Issue of Marriage," on the same date. The NY Times has a brief editorial, "A Ruling for Equality in New Jersey," that is guarded but points out the practical and financial disadvantages of gay couples.
On Dec 13, 2006, New Jersey passed a bill allowing civil unions with the same rights and responsibilities as marriage. Story by Robin Shulman in The Washington Post, Dec. 15m 2006, at this link.