Gay Marriage Proponents Turn Up Pressure in New Jersey
By David Madden and Jenn Bernstein
TRENTON, N.J. (CBS) — Proponents of gay marriage in New Jersey, buoyed by Wednesday’s US Supreme Court decisions (see related story), rallied in Trenton and vowed to pull out all stops to get same-sex marriage legalized in the Garden State Thursday.
The decision comes just as Marsha Shapiro and Louise Walpin are celebrating their 24th anniversary together.
“The only thing that’s standing in the way of us being full citizens in the United States now is New Jersey,” says Louise Walpin.
Several dozen people came to make a point that the federal ruling does affect New Jersey.
“The debate is over,” says Troy Stevenson, executive director of Garden State Equality (right). “We’ve been fighting it for years. Civil unions are not and never will be equal to marriage, and the highest court in the land agreed with us.”
Although there’s a pledge to make things happen through legislation, their best chance now rests with the judicial system. Briefs will be filed next week citing the end of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, noting that civil unions now do not provide equal protection under the law (another related story). Stevenson predicts that, one way or another, gay marriage will be legal in New Jersey by the end of the year.
“Whether it’s through litigation or legislation, I promise you with no reservation, that New Jersey will have marriage equality before the end of this year,” says Stevenson.
Last year, the legislature voted through a marriage equality bill, but Governor Chris Christie vetoed it.
Christie gave his opinion on Wednesday’s ruling while talking on New Jersey 101.5.
“It was a poor decision, but it has no effect on New Jersey,” said Governor Christie.
Gay rights advocates disagree.
They’re urging legislators to override the Governor’s veto. That’s not the only avenue they’re taking.
An ongoing lawsuit filed by Lambda Legal is now front and center.
In 2006, New Jersey’s State Supreme Court ruled same sex couples had to have the same rights as all couples.
Gay rights advocates say Wednesday’s ruling is a game-changer.
They are seeking to strike down civil unions in New Jersey, and allow same-sex couples to marry.
Still others feel New Jersey’s law should stay the same.
“We still hold the opinion, the belief that civil unions do work and that marriage should remain the union of one man and one woman,” says New Jersey Family Policy Counsel’s Gregory Quinlan.
Lambda Legal intends to move for summary judgment on their claims next week, essentially asking the court to rule in their favor, without a trial, because of Wednesday’s ruling.