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Post DOMA: New Jersey court urged to allow gay couples to marry

(Editor's note: Democratic lawmakers in New Jersey are pressuring Republican Gov. Chris Christie, who has presidential ambitions, and asking GOP leaders to "vote their conscience" as they consider attempting to override Christie's veto of the legislature's approval of a marriage equality bill. To override the veto, three more voted are needed in the Senate and 12 more in the Assembly, according to nj.com.)

TRENTON, N.J. -- One week after the Supreme Court's historic decision to strike down Section 3 of the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), Lambda Legal filed a motion for summary judgment in New Jersey Superior Court on behalf of Garden State Equality, New Jersey's statewide LGBT advocacy organization, and six same-sex couples who want marriage equality.

"Now that DOMA is gone, New Jersey is, as a matter of law, in direct violation of the New Jersey Supreme Court order we won in 2006 that requires equality for same-sex couples, and in violation of the Equal Protection clause of the federal Constitution," said Hayley Gorenberg, Lambda Legal deputy legal director. "New Jersey's discrimination is all that bars same-sex couples from the full array of federal protections for their families."

"The Supreme Court of the United States has spoken, and it is clear that the time for marriage equality is now. The debate is over, the facts are in, civil unions are not and never will be equal to marriage," said Troy Stevenson, executive director of Garden State Equality. "Today Lambda Legal will file a brief on our behalf seeking relief through the courts to prevent further discrimination from taking place in New Jersey and to open access to all federal rights and protections that marriage affords."

"Eleven years ago, when we asked Lambda Legal to work on our behalf, we were prepared for a long, hard road and believe it will lead to the freedom to marry. The Supreme Court decision striking down DOMA was historic for the nation but out of reach for us here in New Jersey," said Cindy Meneghin, plaintiff in the lawsuit along with her high school sweetheart, Maureen Kilian, and their two children.

In June 2011, Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit seeking the freedom to marry, 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 last week’s Supreme Court ruling striking Section 3 of DOMA, today Lambda Legal filed a motion for summary judgment in the case, arguing that by barring marriage, the state of New Jersey denies same-sex couples the full range of federal benefits, rights, and protections available under the Windsor decision. This denial explicitly conflicts with the New Jersey Supreme Court ruling in 2006 that says that same-sex couples should have the same rights and benefits as their different-sex counterparts.

Background on lawsuit

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 both the 2002 Lewis case as well as the 2011 GSE case the Gibbons Firm has been a strong pro bono partner with Lambda Legal contributing to the fight for the freedom to marry in New Jersey.

Read the motion for summary judgment HERE.

Meet all the plaintiffs and their families HERE.

This 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.