On September 27, 2013, Judge Mary Jacobson of Mercer County ruled that New Jersey must recognize same-sex marriage (Garden State Equality v. Dow) as of October 21, 2013 on the grounds that the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in U.S. v. Windsor required New Jersey to recognize same-sex marriage because partners in civil unions are being denied federal benefits in violation of the state constitution.
Gov. Chris Christie vetoed the same-sex legislative bill that passed both houses in February 2012. “My view is: If you want to change it, put it on the ballot. Let everybody decide. It shouldn’t be decided by courts, it shouldn’t be decided by politicians in Trenton. It should be decided by everybody. If the majority of the people of New Jersey want same-sex marriage, I’ll enforce the law.”
The Governor’s office is seeking a direct New Jersey Supreme Court review and a short-term stay of the ruling. According to Deputy Attorney General Jean Reilly, if the order takes effect on October 21st, it would cause a “thorny thicket of complex and novel constitutional issues,” and that if the order is later reversed, revoking same-sex marriage licenses would be “virtually impossible.” The stay will last until the Supreme Court issues its response, simplifying the positions federal agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service can take in regards to civil union discrepancies between federal and state laws.
“Right now, we are all on the edge of our seats waiting to see what happens next… whether Jacobson’s October 21 start date for same-sex marriage will remain in place or if Gov. Christie will be successful in his motion to stay this ruling and appeal. However, even if the case does go before the State Supreme Court, as Christie hopes it will, there is no denying the feel in the air in New Jersey that marriage equality is going to happen, and it’s likely to happen soon,” says Bari Weinberger, founder of Weinberger Law Group.
According to a Quinnipiac University Polling Institute survey of 1,144 New Jersey likely voters, 59 – 33 support same-sex marriage, with a 2.9 margin of error percentage point. Director of the study Maurice Carroll says that voters want Gov. Christie to drop his appeal of the judge’s ruling so same-sex couples can marry in the Garden State and that if he doesn’t, the State Legislature should override his veto of legislation, but that his position has not diminished his popularity.