National Organization for Women supports same-sex marriage in New Jersey

New Jersey’s Supreme Court ruled 4-3 today homosexual couples are entitled to the same rights as heterosexuals but said lawmakers must determine whether that takes the form of same-sex marriage or some other legal union.

A ruling by the Massachusetts high court in 2003 introduced same-sex marriage to the United States. But activists on both sides viewed the New Jersey decision as even more significant because the Garden State, unlike Massachusetts, has no law barring out-of-state couples from wedding there if their marriages would not be recognized in their home states.

New Jersey – one of only five states without a law or a state constitutional amendment limiting marriage to one man and one woman – could become a destination for homosexual couples from around the U.S. who would return home and sue to have their marriages recognized.

New Jersey Supreme Court

Four other states have similar pending cases, California, Connecticut, Iowa and Maryland.

In today’s decision, the New Jersey court gave the state legislature 180 days to rewrite marriage laws to either include homosexual couples or create new civil unions.

“The issue is not about the transformation of the traditional definition of marriage, but about the unequal dispensation of benefits and privileges to one of two similarly situated classes of people,” the court said.

New Jersey passed a domestic partnership law in 2004, which gives homosexual couples some benefits of marriage, including health-care coverage for state workers.

Over the past two years, attempts to legalize same-sex marriage were turned back by courts in New York and Washington state. Also, voters in 15 states approved constitutional amendments to limit marriage.

The Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, said the decision is a “wake-up call” for anyone who believes marriage doesn’t need constitutional protection.

“If marriage can mean anything, then marriage means nothing,” said ADF Senior Counsel Glen Lavy.

“It’s critical that people vote for marriage amendments like those in Arizona, Virginia and Wisconsin, which prevent a court from giving same-sex couples marriage in everything but name only.”

Arguing for a limited definition of marriage, Lavy said the institution is “the state’s way of protecting children by ensuring that whenever possible they are raised by their own mother and father.”

“Because same-sex couples can’t procreate, this vital state interest is not advanced by handing out marriage licenses to same-sex couples,” he argued. “The court declined to address this issue because the attorney general specifically refused to make the argument.”

Focus on the Family Chairman James Dobson said the New Jersey court “has blatantly and arrogantly ordered the state legislature to rip up what marriage has meant for thousands of years.”

“The justices have made clear their disdain and disrespect for the true decision makers in our democracy – the people – as well as for the institution of marriage,” he said.

Dobson warned “nothing less than the future of the American family hangs in the balance if we allow one-man, one-woman marriage to be redefined out of existence. And, make no mistake, that is precisely the outcome the New Jersey Supreme Court is aiming for with this decision.”


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