New Jersey

New Jersey

Garden State Equality et al. v. Dow et al.

In June 2011, Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit in the New Jersey Superior Court arguing that the law that created the lesser family status of civil union for same-sex couples in New Jersey violates the New Jersey Constitution and the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. In 2006, the NJ Supreme Court ruled that the NJ legislature must pass a law granting protections equivalent to marriage for same-sex couples, and GSE makes the case that the civil union law is not equivalent to marriage.

In November 2011, Lambda Legal defeated defendants' attempts to have the case dismissed, and the judge ruled that the plaintiffs may proceed with the case.

In July 2013, in the days following the landmark Supreme Court ruling striking down the central part of DOMA, Lambda Legal filed a motion for summary judgment in New Jersey Superior Court urging the Court to extend the freedom to marry to same-sex couples throughout the Garden State.

Oral arguments in the case were heard on August 15, and on September 27, Mercer Count Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobsen ruled in favor of the freedom to marry, writing, "Same-sex couples must be allowed to marry in order to obtain equal protection of the law under the New Jersey Constitution."

Soon after the decision, the Christie administration requested a delay to the start of marriages for same-sex couples. On October 10, Judge Jacobson denied the request for a stay, declaring, "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."

The decision was appealed by the Christie administration, and on October 11, the New Jersey Supreme Court agreed to hear the marriage case, scheduling arguments for January 6, 2014. The day before the Court announced it would hear the case, Judge Jacobsen denied the Christie administration's request for a stay on the ruling, and on October 18, the NJ Supreme Court also denied the request for a stay.

Same-sex couples began marrying in New Jersey on October 21, 2013. Just a few hours later, the Christie administration announced that they would withdraw their appeal of the marriage ruling, saying: “Chief Justice Stuart Rabner left no ambiguity about the unanimous court's view on the ultimate decision in this matter when he wrote, ‘same-sex couples who cannot marry are not treated equally under the law today ... The Governor will do his constitutional duty and ensure his Administration enforces the law as dictated by the New Jersey Supreme Court."

 

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