As Massachusetts Prepares to Issue Marriage Licenses to Same-Sex Couples, Lambda Legals Marriage Lawsuit in New Jersey Jumps to the Next Level -- Moving it to the Front of the Line
(Trenton, New Jersey, May 6, 2004) - An appeal brief filed today in Lambda Legal’s lawsuit seeking marriage equality for same-sex couples in New Jersey puts the state at the front of the line for the ultimate answer on marriage for gay and lesbian couples.
Lambda Legal filed the historic lawsuit against the State of New Jersey in June 2002 on behalf of seven lesbian and gay couples seeking full marriage. The lawsuit is based solely on the New Jersey Constitution. Therefore, the New Jersey Supreme Court will have the last word in the case. The appeal follows a lower-court decision late last year in favor of the state, just as the lower court ruled in Massachusetts before that state’s high court ruled that same-sex couples must receive marriage licenses starting May 17.
“New Jersey’s Constitution requires the state to treat everyone equally, and gay couples aren’t treated equally as long as they can’t marry,” said David Buckel, director of Lambda Legal’s Marriage Project and lead attorney on this case. “We’re delighted that we’re now at the stage in the process where the case will move quickly toward a final ruling. With Massachusetts couples about to get married, all eyes will turn to New Jersey for a big breakthrough in this historic time.” “More and more these last few weeks, people have been asking us if we are going to Massachusetts to get married. We hope to be able to say our vows right here in New Jersey by this time next year,” said Karen Nicholson-McFadden, one of the seven couples in Lambda Legal’s lawsuit. Along with the lawsuit, Lambda Legal launched an extensive education campaign to win the hearts and minds of New Jersey citizens by showing that gay and lesbian couples need and deserve all of the protections marriage provides.
“What makes our case in New Jersey unique is the pairing of the legal work with a highly visible public education strategy including 14 town hall meetings with record breaking attendance throughout the state. We learned our lesson in Hawaii and Alaska, and we hope with this major investment we will fend off, in advance, some of the issues other states are battling now,” said Buckel. “New Jersey has a very high probability of winning marriage for same-sex couples and keeping it.” The seven plaintiff couples in the case have been together between 11 and 32 years. Five of the seven couples have children. All of them want and need the legal security that comes with marriage but has been denied to them. Leading up the list of plaintiff couples are Mark Lewis and Dennis Winslow, two Episcopalian pastors from Union City, Hudson County who have been a couple for 10 years. In addition to Mark Lewis and Dennis Winslow, the plaintiff couples in the case are: Karen and Marcye Nicholson-McFadden, who have been together 13 years and are raising a four-year-old son, Kasey, and one-year-old, Maya; Saundra Heath and Alicia Toby, who have been together 15 years and are leaders in Newark’s Liberation In Truth Unity Fellowship church; Craig Hutchison and Chris Lodewyks, who have been a couple for 32 years and live in Pompton Lakes; Marilyn Maneely and Diane Marini, a southern New Jersey couple who have been together for 14 years; Sarah and Suyin Lael, a 13-year couple raising three young girls Zenzali, Tenaj and Dani; and Maureen Killian and Cindy Meneghin, a couple of 29 years with an eleven-year-old son, Josh, and nine-year-old daughter, Sarah. The words “husband,” “wife,” “spouse,” or some form of the word “marry” appear in more than 850 separate provisions of New Jersey law. Beyond legal rights and responsibilities, marriage is an enormous part of day-to-day life and is the most common way that couples prove their enduring commitment to each other. In New York, Lambda Legal represents five same-sex couples seeking the right to marry. In Washington State, along with the Northwest Women’s Center, Lambda Legal is working toward marriage equality on behalf of six gay and lesbian couples. Lambda Legal is also working with NCLR, Equality California and the ACLU to ensure that the marriages in San Francisco are respected. Together with NCLR and the ACLU, Lambda Legal is also representing ten couples in California seeking the right to marry.
Lawrence S. Lustberg and Jennifer Ching of Gibbons, DelDeo, Dolan, Griffinger & Vecchione, one of New Jersey's largest and most prestigious law firms, are cooperating attorneys for Lambda Legal in this case.
### Contact: Lisa Hardaway, 212-809-8585 ext.266; pager: 888-987-1971
Steven Goldstein, 917-449-8918