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Same sex marriage to begin in New Jersey

October 19th, 2013 by Joseph William Singer

The Supreme Court of New Jersey unanimously upheld the decision of a trial judge to allow same-sex marriage to proceed pending appeal of the trial judge’s ruling that the New Jersey civil union law violates equal protection by denying same-sex couples the same rights as granted to married couples under federal law. Garden State Equality v. Dow, (N.J. 2013). The court had previously held that same-sex couples were entitled under the state constitution to the same rights and privileges as married male-female couples but allowed the legislature to determine whether to accomplish this end by extending marriage rights to same-sex couples or adopting a civil union law. Because the legislature adopted a civil union law, such couples had the same rights under state law as did male-female couples; they had different rights under federal law but that was because federal law refused to recognize any same-sex couples as married for any federal purposes and the state could not change that situation.

However, after the Supreme Court decision in United States v. Windsor, 133 S.Ct. 2675 (2013), required the federal government to treat couples as married for federal purposes if they were married under state law, an inequality has now been introduced into New Jersey law. Before Windsor, civil union couples had the same rights as married male-female couples under state law but unequal rights with regard to federal law; that was something state law could not fix. But now that federal law gives married same-sex couples the same rights under state and federal law, it has been true that civil union couples in New Jersey are denied federal rights they would have if they were married under state law. The court determined that this likely violated the equal protection clause and that the state had no legitimate state interest to violate the constitution while the appeal proceeded. Same sex marriages will begin on Monday Oct 21 while the appeal in the NJ Supreme Court will take place in January 2014.

Posted in Antidiscrimination law, Marital property, Sexual orientation | Comments Off on Same sex marriage to begin in New Jersey

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