Friday, October 18, 2013
The New Jersey Supreme Court today, in its unanimous opinion in Garden State Equality v. Dow, denied a stay of a trial judge's order that same-sex marriages be allowed to begin in New Jersey on October 21. The trial judge's order was supported by an extensive opinion we discussed here. Essentially, the trial judge considered the NJ Supreme Court's previous ruling in Lewis v. Harris (2006), that led to civil unions, and reasoned that by declaring section 3 of DOMA unconstitutional, the United States Supreme Court in in Windsor v. United States had altered the legal landscape: NJ civil unions were now "unequal" because they would not be recognized by the federal government while marriages would be.
Interestingly, the State argued to the New Jersey Supreme Court that the federal government might - - - would? - - - recognize civil unions and thus the constitutional question remained unsettled. The NJ Supreme Court rightly rejected this contention as not based upon the language of Windsor or the realities of the manner in which the federal government was implementing Windsor. Additionally, the NJ Supreme Court rejected as inapplicable the State's argument that a statute is presumed constitutional, noting that the trial judge's order does not declare the civil union unonstitutional and that civil unions would still be available.
Having found that Garden State Equality was likely to prevail on the merits - - - a sure sign that the NJ Supreme court would so hold - - - the NJ Supreme Court considered the other equitable considerations regarding a stay, and found that none supported a stay.
Thus, in a unanimous 20 page opinion, the NJ Supreme Court has given a green light to same-sex marriages in the Garden State.