How New Jersey Got It Wrong

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August 9, 2013
Deputy Legal Director Hayley Gorenberg

Lambda Legal filed a reply brief today answering the arguments made last week by the State of New Jersey in our case seeking the freedom to marry for same-sex couples.

The federal government sees the difference between marriage and civil union, even if the State of New Jersey claims it does not. Because the federal government looks to the state's definition of who is married when it gives out a host of benefits, it is the State of New Jersey that stands in the way of same-sex couples accessing federal marriage rights and responsibilities. This is the State's problem to fix.

Excerpt from the brief filed today:

The Defendants' argument fails to acknowledge the essential legal point that, even if New Jersey treats a civil-unioned couple as if they were married, that couple is definitively not married under State law. Plaintiffs, rather, are currently denied federal benefits because marriage is a status distinct and separate from civil union, and, with the exception of the Social Security provision, federal spousal benefits are distributed exclusively according to State-decreed marital status.  Thus, the State’s effort to "blame the feds" notwithstanding, Plaintiffs' loss of federal benefits derives from the State's barring same-sex couples from marriage and relegating them to civil union, a separate and unequal status under the law.

Read the brief.

Learn more about our marriage lawsuit in New Jersey.