The Supreme Court of New Jersey ruled Wednesday that committed same-sex couples must be afforded on equal terms the same rights and benefits enjoyed by opposite-sex couples under the civil marriage statutes.
In its ruling, the Court said there was no rational basis for giving gays and lesbians full civil rights as individuals while giving them an incomplete set of rights when they enter into committed same-sex relationships.
"To the extent that families are strengthened by encouraging monogamous relationships, whether heterosexual or homosexual, the Court cannot discern a public need that would justify the legal disabilities that now afflict same-sex domestic partnerships," wrote Justice Albin in the Court's majority opinion.
While the Court unanimously determined that same-sex couples have the right to the statutory benefits and privileges conferred on heterosexual married couples, they did not find that committed same-sex partners have a constitutional right to define their relationship by the name of marriage.
The court gave the New Jersey legislature 180 days to either "amend the marriage statutes or enact an appropriate statutory structure."
"This is a definite step forward in recognizing that same-sex couples and their children are entitled to equal rights and responsibilities under the law," said Paul E. Scott, Executive Director of Equality Texas. "We are hopeful that as the New Jersey Legislature moves to implement the Court's ruling it will determine that the right way to end discrimination in marriage is, indeed, to end discrimination in marriage, not create a separate new system."
Scott added, "It is important to note that the New Jersey Supreme Court acknowledged that the economic and financial inequities borne by same-sex committed partners are also borne by their children. Equality Texas has worked to defeat measures in the Texas Legislature that would diminish and demean the value of families headed by same-sex committed couples. Equality Texas will continue its work at the Texas Legislature to fight for family equality, including those families headed by same-sex committed couples."
Equality Texas commends Lambda Legal for all their efforts in arguing the case before the Supreme Court of New Jersey.
Equality Texas works toward the elimination of social, legal, and economic discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression through lobbying, education, and research directed toward the Texas Legislature and other state governmental agencies.
Paul E. Scott