Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Gay Marriage Closer

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Gay Marriage Closer

Article excerpt

SOME RACES are short; some are marathons. Marriage equality in New Jersey is 26.2 miles. Same-sex couples are more than halfway to the finish line.

On Thursday, Superior Court Assignment Judge Mary Jacobson refused to delay same-sex couples from marrying while the state appeals her earlier ruling that those couples are constitutionally entitled to wed.

The Christie administration is appealing. If it is unsuccessful in getting a stay, same-sex couples will be able to obtain marriage licenses on Oct. 21 and marry three days later. Whether the state Supreme Court, which announced Friday it will review this ruling, will grant the stay is an unknown, but Jacobson is clearing a path for the justices - a path that will make it harder for them to ultimately deny marriage equality. The high court also announced it will hear oral arguments in January on the larger question of whether Jacobson's initial ruling allowing same-sex marriage is correct.

In refusing to grant the state's request for a stay, Jacobson said the state had failed to show how it would suffer any "irreparable harm" by allowing same-sex couples to marry. The harm is in denying same-sex couples the right to receive federal benefits while the current appeal works its way through the courts.

The state Supreme Court was clear in 2006 when it unanimously ruled same-sex couples were entitled to the same rights and benefits as opposite-sex marriage in New Jersey. At that time, the Defense of Marriage Act prohibited married same-sex couples from receiving federal benefits. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that DOMA was unconstitutional. But the federal benefits are limited to married couples, not couples in civil unions, which are all that New Jersey law presently allows.

There really is not much room for interpretation of the law here: If the state's highest court already ruled same-sex couples must be equal to opposite couples, and federal law has changed making that no longer the case in New Jersey, same-sex couples must be allowed to marry. …

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