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LGBT advocates team up for marriage equality in New Jersey

TRENTON, N.J. -- A day after the Supreme Court's historic decision to strike down Section 3 of the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), Lambda Legal announced its plan to file a motion for summary judgment in New Jersey Superior Court on behalf of Garden State Equality and six same-sex couples.

"The demise of DOMA Section 3 means that New Jersey's marriage discrimination is all that bars same-sex couples and their families from the full range of federal rights, benefits, and protections. With this new legal landscape, New Jersey's same-sex couples and their children need swift action," said Hayley Gorenberg, Lambda Legal deputy legal director.

"In Lambda Legal's original New Jersey marriage case, Lewis v. Harris, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that it is unconstitutional to give same-sex couples lesser rights than different-sex couples. In 2013, after the defeat of DOMA, there is nothing left to debate - couples in civil unions are not being treated equally under the law."

"There is no longer any excuse to delay: the state must rectify the discrimination taking place within our borders immediately. It is as immoral as it is impractical to force any New Jersey family to be stripped of critical economic and legal protections every time they cross the Hudson or Delaware Rivers to return home from our closest neighboring states," said Troy Stevenson, executive director of Garden State Equality.

"With the Supreme Court's rulings, it's become more clear than ever that not only are LGBT people treated as second-class citizens in New Jersey, but that New Jersey itself risks becoming a second-class state to its neighbors, where all people will be treated equally at all levels of government."

"We believe that the choice is clear: New Jersey should enshrine the Supreme Court's decision into our state's law and end discrimination against LGBT couples who wish to marry," said Udi Ofer, executive director of the New Jersey Civil Liberties Union, which participated in the press conference. "New Jerseyans shouldn't have to cross state lines to receive the equal treatment they deserve. Our fight will not be over until New Jersey implements the principles of the Supreme Court's decision and ensures that discrimination against LGBT couples does not have a place in our free and democratic society."

In June 2011, Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit for marriage equality arguing that barring same-sex couples from marriage and relegating them to civil union violates both the New Jersey Constitution and the Fourteenth Amendment of the federal Constitution. In light of yesterday's Supreme Court ruling striking Section 3 of DOMA, next week Lambda Legal will file a motion for summary judgment in the case.

Meet all the plaintiffs and their families HERE.


In 2002, Lambda Legal filed a historic case, Lewis v. Harris, seeking marriage equality on behalf of seven New Jersey couples. The case reached the New Jersey Supreme Court in 2006. The high court ruled unanimously that same-sex couples must be provided all the benefits and responsibilities of marriage, although it declined at that time to mandate that marriage was specifically required, and gave the state legislature 180 days to provide equality. The legislature hastily passed a civil union law in December 2006, and began issuing civil union licenses to lesbian and gay couples in February 2007.

In January 2010, days before the legislative session ended, the New Jersey Senate voted on and failed to pass a marriage equality law. On March 18, 2010, Lambda Legal filed a motion in aid of litigants' rights asking the New Jersey Supreme Court to intercede and order marriage to secure compliance with its original mandate of equality for the Lewis v. Harris plaintiffs, but in July 2010, the New Jersey Supreme Court denied the motion, requiring further proceedings to develop a record in Superior Court.

The case is Garden State Equality, et al. v. Dow, et al.

Hayley Gorenberg, Deputy Legal Director, is handling this case for Lambda Legal. She is joined by co-counsel Lawrence S. Lustberg of Gibbons PC.