NJ Gay Marriage Advocates Take Fight to State Supreme Court
Garden State Equality with NY Lambda Legal will go to NJ Supreme Court with battle
With the help of New York's Lambda Legal, gay advocates for same sex marriage in New Jersey will be taking their fight to the state's Supreme Court.
A press conference announcing the decision will be held in Trenton tomorrow morning, by Garden State Equality and Lambda Legal.
In January, New Jersey's state senate backtracked on prior promises and failed to pass its Marriage Equality bill into law. This was the beginning of much anger among the state's gay rights groups, who vowed they would take the fight to the highest court.
Lisa Hardaway, Lambda Legal New York : "A long battle ahead"
A spokesperson for Lambda Legal in New York, Lisa Hardaway, has admitted this could be a tough and long battle. Using a 2006 decision by New Jersey's highest court that ordered legislators to pass either a Marriage Equality law or an equivalent Civil Union law that gave gays identical rights, they will show that the choice of civil unions does not give gays equal protection under the law, and that employers and medical professionals do not have to recognize the partnerships.
In 2006 the Court's opinion was that it should be up to the Legislature to determine if full rights were to be given with the word "marriage" or with the term "civil union." In a divided court at the time, three of the seven justices wanted to bypass the legislature and rule gay marriage into law in the state.
Conservatives believe that since gays are granted full rights with civil unions, the term "marriage" being denied them does not have constitutional import. Len Deo of Family Policy Council in New Jersey is among these.
Proponents of same sex marriage also must contend with the possibility that Republican Governor Chris Christie may appoint more conservative judges.
Gay marriage advocates are hoping the Supremes will take their case immediately for the same reason. And while there has been some turnover since the 2006 decision, the new appointees all came from Democrat Jon Corzine before he left office in January.
"It's hard to tell," said Lambda Legal's Hardaway, referring to whether the High Court will bypass the lower courts or not.
Gay marriage is legal in the District of Columbia and five states; Connecticut, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont and Iowa. It was repealed last November in Maine, and is banned by law or constitutionally in dozens of states.