Wednesday, October 25

News from New Jersey

Mark Lewis and Dennis Winslow, et al. v. Gwendolyn L. Harris, etc., et al.

“HELD: Denying committed same-sex couples the financial and social benefits and privileges given to their married heterosexual counterparts bears no substantial relationship to a legitimate governmental purpose. The Court holds that under the equal protection guarantee of Article I, Paragraph 1 of the New Jersey Constitution, committed same-sex 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 same-sex couples, whether marriage or some other term, is a matter left to the democratic process.”
Read the full text of the decision here.

I’m happy, but I can’t help but feel that the Supreme Court of New Jersey chose the easy way out, effectively giving the people the right to undermine (if not overturn) this decision by creating a legal relationship between two people of the same sex that is something other than marriage. In a way, I can’t blame them. They have doubtless seen the divisive and bitter fight that resulted from the 2003 Goodridge decision here in Massachusetts.

The court knows very well that this is not simply a matter of semantics. What the relationship is called matters. The federal government is not obligated to recognize civil unions because civil unions do not exist at the federal level. Of course, the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) already exempts both the states and the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states. However, this can be challenged by legitimately married same-sex couples suing in federal court. If they are not married, however, but merely are joined by a civil union (like what exists in Vermont), I don’t believe they would have standing to challenge DOMA.

Call me cynical, but while I would like to see this as a victory for marriage equality and GLBT rights, I feel that the Supreme Court of New Jersey has opened the door to separate but equal.

2 Comments:

Blogger Ryan said...

i bet your right!

9:25 AM  
Anonymous outiboy said...

i bet you're write, too.

1:32 PM  

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