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New Jersey court rules in favor of marriage equality

Garden State ordered to issue licenses to gay couples starting Oct. 21

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National LGBT Bar Association, Gay News, Washington Blade

The New Jersey Supreme Court has ruled that the state must allow same-sex couples to marry (image via wikimedia).

A New Jersey court ruled on Friday in favor of marriage equality on the basis that the state’s current system of civil unions precludes gay couples from receiving the federal benefits of marriage.

In the 53-page decision, Judge Mary Jacobson of the New Jersey Superior Court grants summary judgment in favor of plaintiffs, saying same-sex couples must be able to marry under the equal protection guarantee provided under the state constitution. The ruling cites Lewis v. Harris, an earlier decision that led to the creation of civil unions in New Jersey to bring equality to gay couples.

“The equality demanded by Lewis v. Harris now requires that same-sex couples in New Jersey be allowed to marry,” the decision states. “As a result, this court will grant plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment and will order the state to permit any and all same-sex couples, who otherwise satisfy the requirements for civil marriage, to marry in New Jersey.”

If the state doesn’t appeal the ruling, the decision states New Jersey has until Oct. 21 to start distributing marriage licenses to gay couples. The office of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who opposes same-sex marriage. didn’t respond to the Washington Blade’s request to comment on whether an appeal would happen.

But according to the Associated Press, Michael Drewniak, a Christie spokesperson, suggested on Friday the governor intends to appeal the ruling to the New Jersey Supreme Court.

“Gov. Christie has always maintained that he would abide by the will of the voters on the issue of marriage equality and called for it to be on the ballot this Election Day,” Drewniak was quoted as saying. “Since the legislature refused to allow the people to decide expeditiously, we will let the Supreme Court make this constitutional determination.”

The court makes heavy use of the U.S. Supreme Court decision against the Defense of Marriage Act. Now that the federal benefits marriage are beginning to flow to married gay couples as the result of that decision, the New Jersey court reasons that civil unions are insufficient because the DOMA decision doesn’t apply to them.

“The ineligibility of same-sex couples for federal benefits is currently harming same-sex couples in New Jersey in a wide range of contexts: civil union partners who are federal employees living in New Jersey are ineligible for martial rights with regard to the federal pension system, all civil union partners who are employees working for businesses to which the Family and Medical Leave Act applies may not rely on its statutory protections for spouses, and civil union couples may not access the federal tax benefits that married couples enjoy,” the decision states.

The decision reached in the case, known as Garden State Equality et al. v. Dow et al, means New Jersey is set to become the 14th state in the country to grant marriage rights to same-sex couples.

The court reaches the decision as a result of a lawsuit filed in 2011 by Lambda Legal on behalf of Garden State Equality and six plaintiffs couples following a veto of marriage bill by Christie. The lawsuit alleged that civil unions — established in 2007 as a result of the decision in Lewis v. Harris — provided inadequate protections to gay couples.

Hayley Gorenberg, Lambda Legal’s deputy legal director, said the court decision is “thrilling” because it enables gay couples to receive the federal benefits of marriage following the Supreme Court decision against DOMA.

“The end of DOMA made the freedom to marry even more urgent than before because the state stood between these families and a host of federal protections, benefits, rights and responsibilities,” Gorenberg said. “With this ruling, our clients and all of New Jersey’s same-sex couples are at the threshold of the freedom to marry.”

LGBT advocates had been moving forward with plans to override Christie’s veto of same-sex marriage legislation as litigation was proceeding in state court.

Earlier this month, according to the group New Jersey United for Marriage, supporters of same-sex marriage picked up three new votes in favor of same-sex marriage: Assembly members Wayne DeAngelo, Gabriela Mosquera and Holly Schepesi, a Republican, bringing them closer to the two-thirds vote needed in both chambers of the legislature to override Christie’s veto.

Troy Stevenson, executive director for Garden State Equality, said the court decision represents an incredible victory and marriage equality will come to New Jersey one way or the other.

“We have been saying it for months and it stands true today: through litigation or legislation, we will win the dignity of marriage this year,” Stevenson said. “We just won the first round through litigation and we will continue to fight until we guarantee marriage for all New Jersey couples.”

The decision from the New Jersey court wasn’t the only victory on Friday for supporters of same-sex marriage. On the same day in Illinois, the Circuit Court of Cook County, Chancery Division, allowed another consolidated lawsuit known as Darby v. Orr to proceed in state court. That litigation was filed by Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union in May 2012.

Assembly member Reed Gusciora, a Democrat and gay lawmaker, commended the court for its decision and said it affirms civil unions are inadequate for same-sex couples.

“The federal government has recognized this,” Gusciora said. “The New Jersey Legislature recognized this. The courts now recognize this. It’s time for the Governor to stop standing in the way of justice and allow this order to be upheld.”

Judge Sophia Hall allowed the case to proceed on the basis of claims that the state law prohibiting same-sex marriage in Illinois denies gay couples equal protection and due process under the state constitution. However, she dismissed claims the same-sex marriage ban violates the state’s constitution’s equal protection on account of sex, the right to privacy and special legislation clause.

Camilla Taylor, marriage project director for Lambda Legal, said her organization is “pleased” the couples represented in the case will have their day in court.

“Illinois’ marriage ban not only brands these couples and their children as inferior under state law, but now that the federal law known as DOMA has been struck down by the Supreme Court, Illinois is the only thing standing between these families and full federal respect for their relationships,” Taylor said. “Loving same-sex couples in Illinois can’t wait any longer for the freedom to marry. We’re excited to get to the next step and make the case for equality.”

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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Larry Johnson

    September 27, 2013 at 7:42 pm

    MAY THE FATHER ABOVE HAVE MERCY….UPON THOSE WHOM ARE SAYING THIS OK….AND PRAYER FOR ALL WHOM ARE FALLING FOR THESE…SATAN TRICK…..EMBRACING…THE FEEDING OF FLESH ….MY PRAYER IS THAT ALL WHOM HAVE FALLEN IN THE ABOMINATION …TOWARD NOT ONLY THE FATHER AND THE SON ..BUT WILL LEAD TO THE DEATH OF MAN KIND….

    • Yitzchak

      September 28, 2013 at 3:38 am

      LOL! Talk about the lady protesting too much!

  2. Thom Waldman

    September 27, 2013 at 7:49 pm

    Oh Larry… get over yourself… God loves gays… as much as you can't understand that … i pray for you to see the light

  3. Jessica Dick

    September 27, 2013 at 9:23 pm

    I think he means Jersey city

  4. Larry Johnson

    September 28, 2013 at 7:53 pm

    SO TRUE THE DEVIL CAN….BUT THOSE WHOM LOVE THE FATHER AND THE SON…..WILL…CLING TO HIS WORDS FOR GUIDANCE AND DIRECTION…..AND DO THOSE THING THAT PLEASE …HIM AND NOT THOSE THING THAT FEED THE FLESH….WE ALL HAVE TO CHANGE WHEN WE COME TO THE FATHER AND THE SON….AND ADOPT HIS WORDS AND WAYS NOT THE WAYS THAT MAN…SAY IS RIGHT VS WHAT THE FATHER HAS WRITTEN AND TOLD US THAT…IS WRONG AND AN ABOMINATION UNTO HIM….I LOVE THE PERSON BUT WE ARE TOLD TO HATE THE SIN THAT CAPTURES THE SOUL/SPIRITUAL GROWTH…FRIEND…

  5. Stanley James

    October 17, 2013 at 7:01 am

    PS sure looks like Malta very catholic will have Civil uinos despe the usual clap trap from the church

    Why do they oppose it – its about gays gettng more respect ( which will reduce gay kids suicides) and that most CUss lead to marriage within a few years

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Politics

State Department acknowledges Intersex Awareness Day

Special LGBTQ rights envoy moderated activist roundtable

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State Department (public domain photo)

The State Department on Tuesday acknowledged the annual Intersex Awareness Day.

“We proudly recognize the voices and human rights of intersex people around the world,” said State Department spokesperson Ned Price in a statement. “The Department of State is committed to promoting and protecting the rights, dignity, and equality of all individuals, including intersex persons.”

Price in his statement said U.S. foreign policy seeks to “pursue an end to violence and discrimination on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, and sex characteristics, while acknowledging the intersections with disability, race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, or other status.” Price also acknowledged intersex people “are subject to violence, discrimination, and abuse on the basis of their sex characteristics” and “many intersex persons, including children, experience invasive, unnecessary, and sometimes irreversible medical procedures.” 

“The department supports the empowerment of movements and organizations advancing the human rights of intersex persons and the inclusion of intersex persons in the development of policies that impact their enjoyment of human rights,” he said.

Jessica Stern, the special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ rights abroad, on Tuesday moderated a virtual panel with intersex activists from around the world.

Intersex Awareness Day commemorates the world’s first-ever intersex protest that took place in Boston on Oct. 26, 1996.

Dana Zzyym, an intersex U.S. Navy veteran who identifies as non-binary, in 2015 filed a federal lawsuit against the State Department after it denied their application for a passport with their sex listed as “X.” The State Department in June announced it would begin to issue gender-neutral passports and documents for American citizens who were born overseas.

The U.S. and more than 50 other countries earlier this month signed a statement that urges the U.N. Human Rights Council to protect the rights of intersex people.

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Politics

Anti-LGBTQ Daily Wire host says 2 men shouldn’t be allowed to adopt babies

” […] because babies need mothers. They also need fathers, which is why two women shouldn’t be allowed either.”

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Screenshot of Matt Walsh via YouTube (Blade file photo)

NASHVILLE – Anti-LGBTQ Daily Wire podcast and YouTuber Matt Walsh joined the growing chorus of far-right and conservative voices outraged that U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg went on paternity leave from his job in August after he and his husband Chasten had adopted two children.

On his show Monday Walsh not only criticized Buttigieg, but he attacked same-sex couples adopting children altogether.

It’s absurd for any public employee, paid on taxpayer dime, to be given that much time off. Now, you can make an argument for women on maternity leave but not for men. Paternity leave is a nice luxury for private companies that can afford it. The U.S. government is not a private company – it’s a public institution, deeply in debt, failing in just about every way and everywhere. So this is not a time and not the place for those kinds of luxuries. But that’s the somewhat safer point to make, right? You are in a much more hazardous place, you are in more hazardous waters when you go away from that and, instead, you start saying mildly critical things about paternity leave in general as a concept.”

I also didn’t say that there’s nothing at all for a man to do for his family after a child is born. I said that as far as caring for the newborn himself, most of that is going to be done by the mother. She, in most cases, will be feeding the child. The child also needs and wants his mother’s presence, his mother’s touch, her voice. The father should be interacting with the baby also, obviously, but the infant is far more focused on his mother at that age. And needs his mother more. There is no mother in the Buttigieg household, but that doesn’t change the point here.”

Babies need their mothers, which is why two men shouldn’t be allowed to adopt babies in the first place. And the outrage mob can now start a secondary campaign over that comment. But I’ll say it again. Two men should not be allowed to adopt babies because babies need mothers. They also need fathers, which is why two women shouldn’t be allowed either.

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Politics

Pete Buttigieg calls out Tucker Carlson over attack

Fox News host mocked transportation secretary over paternity leave

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U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg (Washington Blade file photo)

Appearing remotely on MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace’s politics program Friday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg called out Fox News host Tucker Carlson for the attack on his parental leave.

“This attack is coming from a guy who has yet to explain his apparent approval for the assassination of Harvey Milk, ” Buttigieg said.

During his Thursday evening program Carlson said, “Pete Buttigieg has been on leave from his job since August after adopting a child—paternity leave, they call it—trying to figure out how to breastfeed. No word on how that went. But now he’s back in office as the transportation secretary and he’s deeply amused, he says, to see that dozens of container ships can’t get into this country.”

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