In another hard-fought battle over the definition of matrimony, a New Jersey court dismissed a case brought by seven homosexual couples demanding the state create a right to same-sex “marriage.”

Superior Court Judge Linda Feinberg’s opinion said nothing can be found in the state constitution to justify a right to same-sex “marriage.”

“The right to marry has always been understood in law and tradition to apply only to couples of different genders,” she wrote. “A change in that basic understanding would not lift a restriction on the right, but would work a fundamental transformation of marriage into an arrangement that could never have been within the intent of the Framers of the 1947 Constitution.

The decision was the second on homosexual marriage since the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on Lawrence v. Texas in June, which declared the state’s prohibition of sodomy unconstitutional.

Opponents of that decision fear it will open the door to same-sex marriage, but last month a three-member panel of the Arizona appeals court recognized the state legislature’s right to define marriage as between one man and one woman.

“New Jersey Judge Feinberg properly followed her role in applying the law instead of making law,” said Benjamin W. Bull, chief counsel of the Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund, or ADF, the country’s largest public-interest religious-liberty legal alliance.

Attorneys funded and trained by ADF joined with an alliance of attorneys from the Center for Marriage Law and the New Jersey Family Policy Council to defend traditional marriage.

Feinburg said, however, change is possible in the legislature, and her opinion urges state lawmakers “to carefully examine and consider the expanded rights afforded to same-sex couples in other jurisdictions.”

Lambda Legal, the homosexual advocacy group that argued the case for the couples, said it will appeal the ruling. The group expressed optimism it will ultimately prevail.

“More than anything, this ruling propels us forward to higher courts where both sides have always known it will be decided,” said David Buckel, Lambda senior staff attorney. “Today’s ruling speeds up the clock toward the day lesbian and gay couples in New Jersey can seek the protections they need for their families from the state’s high court.”

The state appeals court is the next step. If rejected there, the case could end up in the New Jersey Supreme Court.

The closest the U.S. has come to same-sex marriage is Vermont’s civil-union law, a legal registration providing the same benefits and rights as married couples. This year, California’s legislature expanded its domestic partner law to grant virtually all the rights of marriage to same-sex couples without requiring a marriage-like ceremony in court. The Netherlands and Belgium are the only countries that treat a same-sex couple’s relationship exactly as one between a man and a woman.

Thirty-seven states have passed laws that bar them from honoring same-sex marriage from another jurisdiction. However, some analysts believe if the New Jersey homosexual couples prevail and are granted licenses, their unions would have to be recognized in all other states under the U.S. Constitution’s “Full Faith and Credit Clause.”

Related stories:

State court rejects same-sex marriage

Court strikes down Texas sodomy law

Supreme Court hears ‘right to sodomy’ case

High court to give ‘gays’ their own ‘Roe’?

California Senate OKs ‘virtual gay marriage’

‘Gays’ heading to Canada for mass wedding

U.S. ‘gay’ activist touts Canadian ‘marriage’

Canada set to legalize ‘gay’ marriage

‘Gay’ wedding licenses issued in Toronto

‘Virtual gay marriage’ bill passes

Canada ‘gay’ marriage to spark border rush?

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