In a 3-3 decision the New Jersey Supreme Court has declined a case seeking the legalization of same-sex marriage filed by Lambda Legal on behalf of six same-sex couples and the surviving partner of a seventh. The case was filed in March following the rejection, in January, of a marriage equality bill by the state senate:
"The couples filed the case in the aftermath of the failure of same-sex legislation in the state Senate, arguing that the state’s 2006 civil union law had failed to grant them the full rights and benefits of heterosexual married couples that the court mandated the Legislature provide them with four years ago. Since the Legislature failed to pass same-sex marriage, the couples wanted the court to intervene.
They will now have to file a new complaint in Superior Court, which will then have to climb the rungs to reach the state Supreme Court.
The decision was 3-3, with Rabner, Robert Rivera-Soto and Helen Hoens ruling to deny the couples’ motion. Three justices dissented: Virginia Long, Jaynee LaVecchia and Barry Albin."
Wrote Chief Justice Stuart Rabner: "This matter cannot be decided without the development of an appropriate trial-like record…We reach no conclusion on the merits of the plaintiffs’ allegations regarding the constitutionality of the Civil Union Act."
"We are terribly disappointed about today's ruling. Our plaintiffs and the New Jersey legislature's own Civil Union Review Commission documented the rampant discrimination same-sex couples face as a consequence of civil union status, and this ruling now relegates our plaintiffs to second-class citizenship for even longer. The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in favor of equality in 2006, and this ruling is a saddening setback for our plaintiffs and their families, who have been denied the rights and responsibilities of marriage for years, and now continue to be denied. Separating out one group and relegating the people in it to a lesser status, in this case to civil unions in New Jersey, invites discrimination from all quarters – the government, businesses, schools, medical providers, individuals. It is heartbreaking that these families must wait longer for equality. As the son of one of our plaintiff couples pointed out when we launched our new motion, he has waited for half his life for his family to be treated equally and it still hasn't happened. He is now almost college-aged. We are now assessing possible next steps in Superior Court."
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