Thursday, January 7, 2010

News from New Jersey

As expect, the New Jersey legislature voted down same-sex marriage this afternoon.  Because pro-marriage equality Governor John Corzine is leaving office very soon to be replaced by an opponent of same-sex marriage, this was seen as a lats ditch effort before a four year wait.

Not so.  I had questioned the wisdom of bringing the issue to a vote when its defeat was all but certain.  Today the leaders for same-sex marriage in New Jersey announced why forcing a vote was good strategy.  They now plan to go to court to win same-sex marriage.   In 2006 the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that the legislature must enact marriage or its equivalent for same sex couples.  So the legislature created civil unions.  Marriage equality supporters plan to prove to the court that the civil union status is not the same as marriage. Here's a press release from Steven Goldstein (right) , Executive Director of Garden State Equality:

With today’s vote in the state Senate, the New Jersey legislature defaulted on its constitutional obligation to provide same-sex couples in New Jersey equal protection, as unanimously mandated by the New Jersey Supreme Court in 2006. That’s why we at Garden State Equality are here with our partner Lambda Legal, which has an extraordinary track record of advancing LGBT civil rights in the courts.

Now our organizations will announce major news. Our side is going back to court to win marriage equality....Let’s be clear about what this news means. We are not waiting out the term of any new Administration to bring equality to same-sex couples in our state.

In 2006, the New Jersey Supreme Court told the legislature it could enact marriage or another structure that provides the equal protection of marriage. But the civil union law failed to do that. Too often, civil union couples too often cannot visit loved ones in hospitals, make medical decisions for their partners or receive equal health benefits from employers. Hospitals and employers have treated civil union couples differently because they’ve been labeled differently. Children have been treated differently at school because their families are labeled differently.

This process will take a while, but with few exceptions, most of our victories have come from the courts.  Stay tuned.

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