Victory! NJ Court Allows Marriages to Proceed in Lambda Legal’s Case
(Trenton, October 10, 2013) — Today the New Jersey Superior Court denied the State’s motion to stay the September 27th ruling 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.
In today’s decision, the Court wrote: "In making this argument, however, the State ignores the largely abstract nature of the harm it alleges, which pales in comparison to the concrete harm caused to Plaintiffs by their current ineligibility for many federal marital benefits, and the significant litigation burden they would have to shoulder to challenge federal denial of marital benefits to civil union couples."
"This is wonderful news!" said Hayley Gorenberg, Deputy Legal Director of Lambda Legal. "The court’s decision once again confirms that the hardships of not being able to marry are real and immediate. Every day does count. Allowing same-sex couples to marry helps many New Jersey families and hurts no one else.”
"Momentum is with us,” said Troy Stevenson, Executive Director of Garden State Equality. “"All couples in New Jersey need the dignity of marriage, and they need it now. We look forward to seeing many of them, who have been denied that dignity for too long, marry in the coming weeks."
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. Just last Friday, on September 27, 2013, the New Jersey Superior Court ruled that same-sex couples in New Jersey must be allowed to marry. Unless it is stayed pending appeal, the decision takes effect on October 21.
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
Read the briefs:
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.