Same-sex couples suing over New Jersey’s Civil Union Act will have to start over in the lower courts, according to a ruling today by the state’s Supreme Court.
Marriage equality advocates contend the law does not accomplish what the high court mandated in a landmark ruling four years ago–that the full rights and benefits afforded to heterosexual married couples also be extended to same-sex couples. State lawmakers responded to that ruling then by passing the Civil Union Act, and earlier this year the New Jersey Senate declined to replace it with a marriage equality law.
The court, in a 3-3 vote, said, “We reach no conclusion on the merits of the plaintiffs’ allegations regarding the constitutionality of the Civil Union Act,” but added that the suit would need to accumulate a trial record by winding its way through lower courts first.
UPDATE: Steven Goldstein, executive director of Garden State Equality, issued the following statement today…
Today’s procedural decision is profoundly disappointing because it represents a delay until the Supreme Court hears the facts on how the civil union law has devastated same-sex families and their children. And any time justice is delayed, justice is denied.But this, too, is clear: First, the Supreme Court’s opinion today all but invited our side to file a new lawsuit. And secondly, the Court did not rule that our side’s claims have no merit. If the Court did, there would be no basis for going back to trail. That omission from today’s opinion is significant.So rather than a definitive defeat, today’s decision is a punt. The punt is frustrating as hell to our families in pain and to an entire people yearning for freedom, but it is a punt, and far from a final decision.As the Supreme Court all but invited us to do, our side will put the civil union law on trial. We will continue to show the world – this time in court – the rabid devastation that New Jersey’s failed civil union law has imposed on our families and children.When our families and their children tell the full story in court, equality will prevail. Garden State Equality and our allies will not relent until that day comes. And we will do everything we can to make sure that day comes soon.