New Jersey Supreme Court Directs State Legislature to Give Equal Rights to Same-sex Couples
(Trenton, New Jersey, October 25, 2006) — The New Jersey Supreme Court unanimously agreed today in Lambda Legal’s lawsuit that denying same-sex couples from the rights and benefits different-sex couples obtain through marriage is unconstitutional, and by a 4 – 3 split opinion, referred the matter to the state legislature to fix the inequality.
Justice Barry T. Albin, who authored the 66 page majority ruling said, “[The] unequal dispensation of rights and benefits to committed same-sex partners can no longer be tolerated under our State Constitution.…” The opinion went on to say that “Our decision today significantly advances the civil rights of gays and lesbians. We have decided that our State Constitution guarantees that every statutory right and benefit conferred to heterosexual couples through civil marriage must be made available to committed same-sex couples.”
“The bottom line here is that the entire court said that there must be a remedy for the inequality that bars same-sex couples from marriage,” said David Buckel, Marriage Project Director who argued the case before the high court as lead counsel for Lambda Legal. “The question for the Legislature is an easy one: whether to follow through on the support of the majority of voters in this State to allow their gay friends and neighbors to marry, including over 20,000 committed same-sex couples raising more than 12,000 children.”
Lambda Legal filed the lawsuit against the State of New Jersey in June 2002 on behalf of seven same-sex couples seeking marriage. After appealing at both the trial court and middle appellate court levels, the last stop for this case was the New Jersey Supreme Court.
“The Legislature cares about families and helping people be more responsible for each other and their children, so we hope it will pass a law quickly to honor the freedom to marry for same-sex couples,” said Buckel.
The plaintiffs are: Mark Lewis and Dennis Winslow, two Episcopalian pastors from Union City, Hudson County who have been a couple for 15 years. Karen and Marcye Nicholson-McFadden, who have been together 17 years and are raising a seven-year-old son, Kasey, and three-year-old daughter Maya; Saundra Heath-Toby and Alicia Toby-Heath, who have been together 17 years and are leaders in Newark’s Liberation In Truth Unity Fellowship church; Craig Hutchison and Chris Lodewyks, who have been a couple for 35 years and live in Pompton Lakes; Marilyn Maneely and Diane Marini, a southern New Jersey couple who were together for 14 years before Marilyn died tragically in the fall of 2005; Sarah and Suyin Lael, a 16-year couple raising three girls, nine-year-old Zenzali, seven-year-old Tanaj and six-year-old Danica; and Maureen Kilian and Cindy Meneghin, a couple of 32 years with a 14-year-old son, Josh, and an 12-year-old daughter, Sarah.
Susan Sommer, Senior Counsel at Lambda Legal is also on the case. Lawrence S. Lustberg and Megan Lewis of Gibbons, DelDeo, Dolan, Griffinger & Vecchione, one of New Jersey’s largest and most prestigious law firms, are cooperating attorneys for Lambda Legal on this case.
Mark Roy / Jackie Yodashkin: 212-809-8585
Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.