By David Madden
TRENTON, N.J. (CBS) — A Superior Court judge in Trenton has now heard from both sides on whether the courts should allow gay marriage in New Jersey, where legislation currently allows only civil unions.
Garden State Equality is asking for a summary judgment, contending the June decision from the US Supreme Court invalidating much of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (see related story) creates an unequal situation for gay couples.
But don’t expect a quick decision. Garden State Equality attorney Lawrence Lustberg (in top photo) says the problem stems from how federal benefits are doled out.
“Each of the statutes that we cite use the term marriage,” he notes. “They don’t say ‘marriage or its equivalence.’ They say ‘marriage.’ They say ‘spouse,’ in the context of a marriage.”
Attorneys for the state counter that the New Jersey Constitution does not provide a remedy for inequities in federal benefits.
New Jersey assistant attorney General Kevin Jespersen puts it bluntly:
“Does the court have the power to impose upon the state a limit under the state constitution for something that arises from federal conduct? The answer to that, I believe, is no.”
And besides, attorneys for the state say, it’s not clear how most federal agencies will interpret the high court’s ruling.
Judge Mary Jacobsen said at the end of the 90-minute hearing that she would not have a decision until next month at the earliest.