Victory! NJ High Court Allows Marriages to Proceed in Lambda Legal Case
(Trenton, October 18, 2013) - Today the New Jersey Supreme Court, agreeing with the lower court's Sept. 27th ruling, denied the State's motion to postpone allowing same-sex couples to marry. Lambda Legal had filed a brief on behalf of Garden State Equality, New Jersey's statewide LGBT advocacy organization, and six same-sex couples who seek the freedom to marry, asking the Court to deny the motion for a stay.
In today's decision, the Court wrote:
"What is the public's interest in a case like this? Like Judge Jacobson, we can find no public interest in depriving a group of New Jersey residents of their constitutional right to equal protection while the appeals process unfolds."
"The long wait in New Jersey is finally over - the door is open for love, commitment and equality under the law! This is a huge victory for New Jersey's same-sex couples and their families." said Hayley Gorenberg, Deputy Legal Director of Lambda Legal and the organization's lead attorney on the case. "Beginning October 21st, New Jersey's same-sex couples will be able to marry and have the critically important rights, benefits, and protections they need for their families. Take out the champagne glasses - wedding bells will soon be ringing in New Jersey!"
"Today the New Jersey Supreme Court has stood on the side of equality and refused to delay the freedom to marry. We have been fighting an uphill battle for the dignity of marriage for years and we are finally within sight of the summit. However, this is not the time to rest, it is the time to recommit, and it is the time to pull out all the stops. We have to continue to push because we are in the fight of our lives. We will continue to demand that action be taken at the state house. We will not rest until we guarantee the freedom to marry to every New Jerseyan, and we are certain that it can never be taken away," said Troy Stevenson, Executive Director of Garden State Equality.
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 New Jersey case, arguing that by barring marriage, the state of New Jersey now denies same-sex couples the full range of federal benefits, rights, and protections available after the Windsor decision. On September 27, 2013, the New Jersey Superior Court ruled that same-sex couples in New Jersey must be allowed to marry and set an effective date of October 21.
The case has been appealed by the state and will be heard by the New Jersey Supreme Court on January 6 or 7, 2014. Because there is no stay on the decision, same-sex couples have the freedom to marry beginning on Monday.
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 current case, Garden State Equality. v. Dow, 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 v. Dow.
Hayley Gorenberg, Deputy Legal Director, is handling this case for Lambda Legal. She is joined by co-counsel Lawrence S. Lustberg of Gibbons, PC.