On September 27, 2013, Mercer County Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson in New Jersey 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, and on October 18, the NJ Supreme Court denied a request for a stay in the marriage case.
Same-sex couples began marrying in New Jersey on October 21, 2013, and just a few hours later, the Christie administration dropped its appeal of the ruling. Marriage supporters continue working toward an override of Christie's veto of the 2012 marriage bill to secure, without any doubt, the freedom to marry for same-sex couples.
The debate in NJ had surged since February 2012, when the New Jersey state legislature passed a freedom to marry bill. Despite polling which showed a solid majority of New Jersey voters in favor of the legislation, Governor Chris Christie vetoed the bill.
In July 2013, Freedom to Marry helped to launch New Jersey United for Marriage, to override the veto. In the meantime, however, the court case worked its way through the system and won the freedom to marry across the state.
The New Jersey legislature passed civil union legislation in January 2007 after a unanimous New Jersey Supreme Court ruling in 2006 that recognized the equal needs and common humanity of committed same-sex couples and their kids. The legislature was instructed to codify this decision. Unfortunately, the legislature decided to create a separate category of civil unions rather than provide the freedom to marry for all of the state's residents.
Along with passing the civil union bill, the legislature set up a Civil Union Review Commission to study the implementation of civil unions and whether or not they fulfill the court's ruling. The commission concluded that civil unions are failing New Jersey families and urged passage of freedom to marry legislation. The New Jersey legislature failed to change the law in 2009.
In February 2012, both houses of the state legislature passed a freedom to marry bill, but on February 16, Gov. Chris Christie vetoed the bill.
GROUPS THAT WORKED ON MARRIAGE:
- New Jersey United for Marriage is the statewide coalition working to pass the freedom to marry in the NJ state legislature by overriding Gov. Christie's veto.
- Garden State Equality is the central statewide organization working for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex civil rights in New Jersey.
- Freedom to Marry is the campaign to win marriage for same-sex couples nationwide.
- Human Rights Campaign is the United States' largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality.
A wide majority of New Jersey voters (64%) support the freedom to marry, while just 30% say they do not support marriage for same-sex couples. (Quinnipiac, March 2013)
NUMBER OF SAME-SEX COUPLES:
According to The Williams Institute's analysis of the 2010 U.S. Census, 16,875 same-sex couples are living in New Jersey, representing 5.2 same-sex couples per 1,000 households.
Blog Posts Related to New Jersey
When Nikki and Sue declared their love for each other in their beautiful ceremony, neither Hawaii nor their home state of New Jersey extended the freedom to marry to same-sex couples - now, both states do.
Today, October 25, 2013, Freedom to Marry's Director of State Campaigns, Richard Carlbom, joined a panel of experts and people touched by the freedom to marry in New Jersey for a Google + Hangout moderated by Chris Geidner, Legal Editor for Buzzfeed.
It's been a big week for the freedom to marry as the playing field of states working to pass marriage laws and defeat anti-gay initiatives widens more broadly than ever. Here are some of this week's highlights on how we moved forward:
Resources Related to New Jersey
The Southern Poverty Law Center provides a detailed listing of anti-gay groups know for their dangerous propaganda aimed at lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
Demographic and economic information about same-sex couples and same-sex couples raising children in New Jersey.
The New Jersey Civil Union Review Commission published a report which determined New Jersey's civil union law "is not clear to the general public" and "creates a second-class status" for those who have filed for civil unions, among many other challenges that prove the law does not accomplish what it was intended to do--provide protections and benefits of marriage to same-sex couples and their families.