New Jersey Superior Court Hears Argument in Major Post-DOMA Courtroom Showdown on Marriage
In a key court test following the demise of DOMA, Lambda Legal argues for swift action on behalf of Garden State Equality and six same-sex couples.
(Trenton, August 15, 2013) — Today, in one of the first major courtroom tests since the demise of Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), Lambda Legal presented oral argument on a motion for summary judgment before the New Jersey Superior Court in a case seeking marriage equality on behalf of Garden State Equality, New Jersey's statewide LGBT advocacy organization, and six same-sex couples who seek the freedom to marry, as well as their children.
"We're in court today because New Jersey continues to shirk responsibility for denying the state's same-sex couples the freedom to marry. Now that DOMA is gone, New Jersey is, as a matter of law, in direct violation of the New Jersey Supreme Court order we won in 2006 that requires equality for same-sex couples, and it's in violation of the Equal Protection clause of the federal Constitution," said Hayley Gorenberg, Lambda Legal Deputy Legal Director. "The state's discrimination is all that bars same-sex couples from the full array of federal protections for their families. New Jersey can fix this – and it should. The buck stops right here."
"Garden State Equality was proud to help initiate this historic case," said Troy Stevenson, Executive Director of Garden State Equality. "We have long been leading the charge for equality, and we will continue to pursue every available avenue to make sure New Jersey's same-sex couples enjoy the dignity of marriage as quickly as possible."
"Eleven years ago, when we asked Lambda Legal to work on our behalf, we were prepared for a long, hard road for our family and for other same-sex couples and their kids," said Cindy Meneghin, plaintiff in the lawsuit along with her high school sweetheart, Maureen Kilian, and their two children. "The U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down DOMA was historic for the nation but out of reach for us here in New Jersey. We won't give up until we have the freedom to marry and the opportunity to share that security and joy with our family."
In June 2011, Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit seeking the freedom to marry, arguing that barring same-sex couples from marriage and relegating them to civil union violates both the New Jersey Constitution and the Fourteenth Amendment of the federal Constitution. This June, the Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of DOMA, and Lambda Legal filed a motion for summary judgment in the case, arguing that by barring marriage, the state of New Jersey denies same-sex couples the full range of federal benefits, rights, and protections available after the Windsor decision.
In today's argument, Lambda Legal addressed how this denial explicitly conflicts with the New Jersey Supreme Court ruling in 2006 that says that same-sex couples should have the same rights and benefits as their different-sex counterparts. The judge hearing the case indicated she would not rule before September.
In 2002, Lambda Legal filed a historic case, Lewis v. Harris, seeking marriage equality on behalf of seven New Jersey couples. The case reached the New Jersey Supreme Court in 2006. The high court ruled unanimously that same-sex couples must be provided all the benefits and responsibilities of marriage, although it declined at that time to mandate that marriage was specifically required, and gave the state legislature 180 days to provide equality. The legislature hastily passed a civil union law in December 2006, and began issuing civil union licenses to lesbian and gay couples in February 2007. In both the 2002 Lewis case as well as the 2011 GSE case the Gibbons Firm has been a strong pro bono partner with Lambda Legal contributing to the fight for the freedom to marry in New Jersey.
Meet all the plaintiffs and their families: http://www.lambdalegal.org/nj-marriage
This case is Garden State Equality et al. v. Dow et al.
Hayley Gorenberg, Deputy Legal Director, is handling this case for Lambda Legal. She is joined by co-counsel, Lawrence S. Lustberg of Gibbons, PC.