NJ judge refuses to delay start to the freedom to marry in New Jersey

Today, Mercer County Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson denied Gov. Chris Christie's request to delay the start of marriages for same-sex couples in New Jersey. Although the decision is expected to be appealed, at this point, the freedom to marry for same-sex couples in New Jersey is scheduled to begin on October 21, 2013. 

"Granting a stay would simply allow the state to continue to violate the equal protection rights of New Jersey same-sex couples, which can hardly be considered a public interest," Judge Jacobson wrote. The decision comes two weeks after Judge Jacobson issued a ruling in Garden State Equality et. al. v. Dow, et. al., a federal lawsuit challenging the state's civil union law and seeking the freedom to marry for same-sex couples. The judge ruled in favor of the freedom to marry for same-sex couples in New Jersey.

This week, two new polls confirmed what we already know in New Jersey: That a super majority of NJ residents support the freedom to marry. Sixty-two percent of respondents in a Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll said they agreed with the Superior Court ruling. Fifty-nine percent of respondents in a Quinnipiac University poll said they want to see the NJ legislature override Gov. Christie's veto of the 2012 marriage bill.  

The ruling from September 27 cited the 2006 decision in Lewis, a case in the NJ Supreme Court that declared that the NJ legislature must extend equal protection to the relationships of same-sex couples, whether that was through marriage or some other form of family status. New Jersey, in response, created the lesser status of civil union, which provides many of the protections of marriage in the state but none of the respect or federal protections of marriage. Now that the central part of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act has been struck down and married couples - but not couples joined in civil union - are eligible for federal protections of marriage, Judge Jacobsen found that the civil union law is unconstitutional. 

It remains imperative that the New Jersey legislature act quickly to pass a marriage bill. Every day that same-sex couples are denied the freedom to marry is a real burden to NJ families, who are already doing the work of marriage. If the ruling is appealed, as is expected, securing the votes to overturn Gov. Christie's veto of the marriage bill will remain the quickest path toward the freedom to marry for all loving and committed couples in the state. 

New Jersey United for Marriage is the campaign working to override Gov. Christie's veto in the legislature. Freedom to Marry is proud to serve as a leading and founding member of NJ United for Marriage.

NJ United campaign manager Mike Premo issued a statement celebrating the good news and pushing for a quick resolution from the legislature. He said:

While we highly anticipate the weddings to come, we must not, however, lose sight of what still needs to be accomplished. At any moment, the court can step in and put a halt to all this, temporarily or permanently. The safest, surest, quickest route to marriage equality still remains with the Legislature. We have seen the momentum for this effort continue to build and build over the last few weeks. Moreover, the court’s decision that only marriage creates true equality reaffirms the fact that lawmakers who support marriage equality will have their feet firmly planted on the right side of history.

Learn more about the lawsuit on our Marriage Litigation page, and check out New Jersey United for Marriage.