Judge: Lawsuit by Gay Couples Seeking Marriage in NJ Can Proceed

A New Jersey judge today ruled that a lawsuit brought by gay and lesbian couples seeking same-sex marriage in the state can proceed, the Star-Ledger reports:

NjIf the law creating civil unions does not give same-sex couples the same protections as married heterosexual couples, it has to be examined as to whether it is constitutional, Mercer County Assignment Judge Linda Feinberg said during a hearing in Trenton this afternoon.

But in dismissing three counts of the complaint, Feinberg also said there is no fundamental right to same-sex marriage under the state Constitution. One count of the suit — a claim that the civil union law does not give them equal protection — remains.

She noted same-sex couples complain civil unions, created in New Jersey in 2006, still don’t give them the same benefits as marriage in situations such as health benefits sharing and health care decisions.

"I don’t think that the court can remain silent and take no action if…the result is that those benefits are not equal in the protections," Feinberg said.

Garden State Equality wrote, on its Facebook page, shortly after the ruling: "We just won round one in the New Jersey marriage equality case, Garden State Equality v. Dow, as the court ruled against the state's motion to dismiss the case. The judge ruled right from the bench rather than wait to write a written opinion."

Said Hayley Gorenberg, Lambda Legal Deputy Legal Director: "We are delighted that the New Jersey Superior Court will allow this case to continue and permit us to demonstrate how the legislature's crafting of a status other than marriage for same-sex couples has failed to provide them the equality promised by the New Jersey Constitution. Civil union relegates New Jersey's same-sex couples to a second-class status that keeps them and their families vulnerable. By moving to dismiss, the government was trying to prevent us from showing exactly how the current classification system based on sexual orientation harms families. New Jersey’s exclusion interferes during medical crises, denies them health insurance, and leads to discrimination against them even in funeral homes. These families need marriage equality and should not have to live with a law that treats them as inferior."


  1. ChrisQ says

    Plus we have to stop them from taking just a short jaunt across the river to NY, which is estimated to make $400 million dollars in the next three years from marriage equality.

  2. Robert in NYC says

    If this case results in a nod to marriage equality in NJ, is that absolute or can Governor Christie do anything to make sure it’s not made legal? He said even if the legislature voted for same-sex marriage, he would veto any bill.

  3. Gay american says

    well NJ is LOSING lots of money – last yr my partner and I who live in NJ – went to Vermont and spend our 2500$ vakay money there,and got married…we weren’t settling for CU – so VT deserved our money and got it

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  5. says

    In general, for the constitutionality of a law to be judged, it is insufficient to establish that plaintiffs suffered an injury to their constitutional rights, but that the injury resulted from an act expressly authorized or mandated by the law.

    For example, in Watkins v. United States Army , 875 F.2d 699 (9th Cir. 1989) (en banc), the Ninth Circuit decided a challenge to a discharge based on a homosexual orientation. The challenge alleged that the discharge violated equitable estoppel principles, as the Army had drafted the plaintiff after he had admitted his orientation and the Army did not challenge that admission. The challenge also claimed that the regulation requiring the plaintiff’s discharge violated the plaintiff’s due process and equal protection guarantees. The Court decided that equitable estoppel was sufficient to grant plaintiff the remedy he sought, and declined to rule on the constitutionality of the regulation.

    And in Meinhold v. Department of Defense , the plaintiff challenged a discharge on the basis that he was gay. The Ninth Circuit found that the discharge violated the Navy’s regulations, and as such did not reach the issue of whether the regulations were constitutional.

    Thus, for the court in this case to judge the constitutionality of the law in question, it must decide if the law expressly authorized or mandated the acts that injured the plaintiffs.