TRENTON, N.J. (RNS) — Supporters of gay marriage said they would press on with their fight despite the New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision not to hear a case in which six same-sex couples asked for the right to marry.
“We … will never give up — not until our dying breath,” said Steven Goldstein, chairman of Garden State Equality, the state’s largest gay rights organization.
Goldstein said the July 26 announcement by the state’s highest court maintains the unequal legal status of same-sex couples.
“Same-sex couples will continue to be denied the consistent right to visit one another in the hospital, to make medical decisions for one another and to receive equal health benefits from employers, all because of the deprivation of the equality and dignity that uniquely comes with the word marriage,” Goldstein said in a statement.
Though the court said it won’t consider the case now, it left open the possibility it could hear it in the future. The justices said the case needs to be filed anew in Superior Court — where it originated eight years ago — and wind its way back up.
“This matter cannot be decided without the development of an appropriate trial-like record,” the court said.
The seven-member court currently has one vacancy, and the remaining six justices were split down the middle, one vote short of the four votes needed to grant a motion.
In 2006, the Supreme Court ruled same-sex couples were due the full rights and benefits of heterosexual married couples, but left it up to the Legislature to provide those rights, leading to the 2006 civil-union law.
Armed with a legislative commission report saying civil unions had failed to achieve equal status for gay couples, same-sex marriage advocates pushed for full marriage rights. But after the state Senate rejected the gay marriage bill, the case made its way back to the state’s highest court.
Hayley Gorenberg, an attorney for Lambda Legal, a gay-rights advocacy group, said her clients are ready to restart the legal battle, but the delay means more than just extra paperwork.
“Every day, people are being denied their rights in medical situations, in school situations, at work,” she said.
John Tomicki, president of the New Jersey Coalition to Preserve and Protect Marriage, said he wants voters to decide if marriage should be defined as a union between one man and one woman.
“I have no doubt the plaintiffs and Garden State Equality will continue their march on the courts because they do not have natural law and the public’s interests on their side,” he said.
— Matt Friedman / The Star-Ledger
© Religion News Service. Used with permission.
Posted July 29, 2010