Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
A New Jersey state court judge ruled on Friday that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry under the state constitution, ordering marriage equality will take effect on October 21, 2013 — assuming the decision is not stayed on appeal. New Jersey Judge: Same-Sex Couples Have The Right To Marry:
The decision is expected to be appealed, first to an intermediate court, and then to the state Supreme Court.
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The decision does not overturn the civil unions law, but asserts that same-sex couples must also have the right to marriage, including all the federal benefits now associated with it post-Defense of Marriage Act:
The ineligibility of same-sex couples for federal benefits is currently harming same-sex couples in New Jersey in a wide range of contexts: civil union partners who are federal employees living in New Jersey are ineligible for marital rights with regard to the federal pension system, all civil union partners who are employees working for businesses to which the Family and Medical Leave Act applies may not rely on its statutory protections for spouses, and civil union couples may not access the federal tax benefits that married couples enjoy.
And if the trend of federal agencies deeming civil union partners ineligible for benefits continues, plaintiffs will suffer even more, while their opposite-sex New Jersey counterparts continue to receive federal marital benefits for no reason other than the label placed upon their relationships by the State. This unequal treatment requires that New Jersey extend civil marriage to same-sex couples to satisfy the equal protection guarantees of the New Jersey Constitution as interpreted by the New Jersey Supreme Court in Lewis. Same-sex couples must be allowed to marry in order to obtain equal protection of the law under the New Jersey Constitution.
New Jersey would become the 14th state to recognize same-sex marriage. The decision follows a New Jersey Supreme Court decision that required same-sex couples to have access to all the same benefits of opposite-sex couples, except the word marriage. The state legislature chose instead to extend civil unions, but the federal benefits that have been offered since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned DOMA have not applied to civil unions, which are not accounted for in federal statutes.
This is how the remainder of DOMA will fall, as courts enforce the constitutional right to equal protection under the law.