Lambda Legal and Garden State Equality Celebrate Marriage in New York by Calling for Equality in New Jersey

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In a joint rally overlooking the Manhattan skyline, the groups call for marriage equality across the Hudson River.
July 24, 2011
Hayley Gorenberg

"We won't give up until same-sex couples in New Jersey enjoy the same freedom to marry that our New York neighbors are enjoying today."

(Hoboken, NJ, July 24, 2011)—In celebration of the first day of marriage for same-sex couples in New York and less than a month after the groups filed a lawsuit in New Jersey seeking marriage for same-sex couples, Lambda Legal and Garden State Equality will hold a rally at Pier A in Hoboken at 2:00 pm to highlight how New Jersey's civil union law has failed to provide equality.

"Just across the river, same-sex couples and their families are celebrating equality," said Hayley Gorenberg, Deputy Legal Director for Lambda Legal. "The promise of equality that is guaranteed by our constitution doesn't stop halfway across the Hudson, and we won't give up until same-sex couples in New Jersey enjoy the same freedom to marry that our New York neighbors are enjoying today."

"We have equality in our sights—literally—right across the state border. We are very happy for our friends in New York who never had to endure the indignity of a civil union law," said Steven Goldstein, Chair and CEO of Garden State Equality. "It is time for the courts to fix this failed civil union policy in New Jersey. Marriage is the only way to provide equality for our relationships, and security for our families."

Just last month Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit seeking marriage on behalf of seven same-sex couples and Garden State Equality, arguing that the civil union law has failed to provide equality. The case combines both state and federal claims. It argues that relegating same-sex couples to civil union violates both the New Jersey Constitution and the Fourteenth Amendment of the federal Constitution. In court papers filed June 29, 2011, Lambda Legal addressed how New Jersey's civil unions fall short. Civil unions place same-sex couples in an inferior status to different-sex couples. Without marriage equality, same-sex couples are denied workplace benefits and protections equal to those accorded to married people, and they are blocked from seeing their loved ones during medical emergencies. The exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage deprives them and their children of their dignity as a family and certainty in their legal rights and status to each other.

Plaintiffs

Garden State Equality, New Jersey's largest LGBT civil rights organization, with more than 82,000 members is an organizational plaintiff in the case. The plaintiff couples include: Daniel Weiss, 46, and John Grant, 46, of Asbury Park, who have been together for four years and were married in Connecticut in 2010 after John was hit by a car, shattering his skull, and hospital administrators failed to understand their civil union; Marsha Shapiro, 56, and Louise Walpin, 57, of Monmouth Junction, who have been together for 22 years and raised four children; Cindy Meneghin, 53, and Maureen Kilian, 53, of Butler, who were high school sweethearts and have been together for 36 years, raising two children; Tevonda and Erica Bradshaw, both 36, of North Plainfield, who have an infant son and have been together for more than four years; Marcye and Karen Nicholson-McFadden, 47 and 45 respectively, of Aberdeen, who have been together for 21 years and have two children; Keith Heimann, 53, and Tom Davidson, 49, of Shrewsbury, who will celebrate their 25th anniversary together in January, and have two daughters; Elena and Liz Quinones, 33 and 45 respectively, of Phillipsburg, who are raising four children and have been together for nine years.

Meet all the plaintiffs and their families.

Background

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 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 December 2008 the Civil Union Review Commission, appointed by the legislature pursuant to the Civil Union Act itself, issued its unanimous report documenting how civil unions fall short of providing the court-mandated equality for same-sex couples. In January 2010, days before the legislative session ended, the New Jersey Senate voted on and failed to pass a marriage equality law. On March 18, 2010, Lambda Legal filed a motion in aid of litigants' rights asking the New Jersey Supreme Court to intercede and order marriage to secure compliance with its original mandate of equality for the Lewis v. Harris plaintiffs, but in July 2010, the New Jersey Supreme Court denied the motion, requiring further proceedings to develop a record in Superior Court.

The 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 and Eileen Conner of Gibbons, PC.

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Contact Info

Contact: Lisa Hardaway; 212-809-8585 x 266; lhardaway@lambdalegal.org

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.

Garden State Equality is New Jersey's largest civil rights organization, winning 212 LGBT civil rights laws at the state, county and local levels—a national record. The laws include America's strongest and most inclusive laws to combat discrimination, hate crimes and school bullying, as well as America's strongest transgender equality law.

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