Legislation in Progress To Codify N.J. Right to Same Sex Marriage

, New Jersey Law Journal

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Sen. Raymond Lesniak

The Civil Union Act was passed a few months later and took effect in 2007.

A commission created to make sure civil unions received equal treatment concluded they did not.

The case for same-sex marriage got another major boost on June 26, when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which allowed states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages from other states.

The federal government then began extending various types of benefits to same-sex couples who were married but not those in civil unions, bolstering the argument that marriage was needed to provide the equality required by Lewis.

The New Jersey Supreme Court agreed to a direct review of Jacobson’s holding, but on Oct. 18 refused to stay it, finding the appeal was unlikely to succeed and no irreparable harm would be caused by allowing same-sex marriages in the interim.

Christie then dropped the appeal, and New Jersey became the 14th state with same-sex marriage, but it was unclear whether attempts to legislate it would be abandoned.

Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, the other sponsor of S-3109, says the choices were to do nothing and hope no court reverses Jacobson, push for an override or “elicit support from the other side and perhaps the governor by doing a clean bill that doesn’t poke the governor’s office in the eye.”

She notes that S-3109 provides that if a couple in a civil union chooses to marry, it would be retroactive to Oct. 21.

Lesniak and Weinberg are both members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has announced that it will not take oral testimony on Monday because S-3109 is so similar to S-1, but written comments can be submitted in advance.

Prospects are dicier in the Assembly, where there is no bill. Assembly Majority spokesman Tom Hester says, “New Jersey now has a very strong marriage equality right that is quite possibly the nation’s strongest. The Assembly is of course willing to listen to all ideas, but considering the strength of the existing right, no action is currently scheduled.”

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