TRENTON — The Supreme Court of New Jersey unanimously ruled on Friday to uphold a lower court order that mandated officials to allow same-sex ‘marriages’ to be performed and recognized in the state.
As previously reported, Judge Mary Jacobson of the Mercer County Superior Court released the order last month, citing the recent ruling by the United States Supreme Court, which struck down key parts of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
At issue were the state’s allowance of civil unions, but denial of same-sex “marriages.” Jacobson ruled that civil unions are missing out on “certain federal benefits that legally married same-sex couples are able to enjoy.”
“If the trend of federal agencies deeming civil union partners ineligible for benefits continues, plaintiffs will suffer even more, while their opposite-sex New Jersey counterparts continue to receive federal marital benefits for no reason other than the label placed upon their relationship by the state,” she wrote. “This unequal treatment requires that New Jersey extend civil marriage to same-sex couples to satisfy the equal protection guarantees of the New Jersey Constitution.”
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie then appealed the ruling to the state Supreme Court, which agreed with Jacobson on Friday that ceremonies must be allowed to move forward.
“The state has advanced a number of arguments, but none of them overcome this reality: Same-sex couples who cannot marry are not treated equally under the law today,” the opinion, written by Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, stated. “The harm to them is real, not abstract or speculative.”
Christie had requested that the court stay the order until the matter was decided on its merits in January, but the justices asserted that “the public interest does not favor a stay” and that state officials have “not shown a reasonable probability it will succeed on the merits” of the case.
Therefore, Christie states that while he disagrees with the ruling, he has advised officials to obey the court.
“While the governor firmly believes that this determination should be made by all the people of the State of New Jersey, he has instructed the Department of Health to cooperate with all municipalities in effectuating the order,” spokesman Michael Drewniak wrote in a statement following the release of the opinion.
The National Organization for Marriage also released a statement on Friday, decrying the ruling.
“It is extremely disappointing that the New Jersey Supreme Court has allowed the ruling of an activist judge to stand pending its appeal through the court system,” President Brian Brown commented. “The definition of marriage is something that should be decided by the people of New Jersey themselves, not by any judge or court.”
“New Jerseyans should have the right to vote on this issue just as voters in nearly three dozen other states have done,” he continued. “In addition, the decision to allow same-sex ‘marriage’ to proceed even while the law is being tested in court is unfair both to the voters of the state and to same-sex couples themselves. … All in all, today’s ruling is another sad chapter in watching our courts usurp the rights of voters to determine issues like this for themselves.”
New Jersey will now be the 14th state to allow same-sex “marriage” within its borders. Ceremonies are expected to begin on Monday.