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Same Sex Marriage

Same-sex marriage became legal in New Jersey on October 21, 2013. On that date New Jersey became the fourteenth state to legally recognize same-sex marriage. As of February 2015, 37 states recognize same-sex marriage.

Three key court cases led to the legal recognition of same-sex marriage in New Jersey. First, Lewis v. Harris 188 N.J. 415 (N.J. 2006) is a 2006 case where the New Jersey Supreme Court stated that same-sex couples were guaranteed the same rights as opposite-sex couples under the state constitution. It prompted the creation of same-sex civil unions in New Jersey. Next, United States v. Windsor is a case from June 2013 in which the United States Supreme Court struck down a federal statute that defined marriage as between one man and one woman. Finally in September 2013, the Garden State Equality v. Dow case led to the legalization of same-sex marriage in New Jersey.

2006 – Same-Sex Civil Unions in New Jersey (Lewis v. Harris)

The path to legal recognition of same-sex relationships in New Jersey began in 2006 with the case Lewis v. Harris, 188 N.J. 415 (2006), in which the Supreme Court of New Jersey held that the New Jersey Constitution guaranteed same-sex couples in committed relationships the same rights and benefits as married couples of the opposite sex. The ruling in that case led the New Jersey legislature to pass the Civil Union Act, which allowed same-sex couples to enter into civil unions, but did not allow them to marry.

June 2013 – Federal Defense of Marriage Act (United States v. Windsor)

The June 2013 United States Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Windsor 133 S.Ct. 2675 (2013) struck down the Defense of Marriage Act. The Defense of Marriage Act (commonly referred to as “DOMA”), enacted in 1996, defined for the purposes of the federal government that marriage was a union between one man and one woman. DOMA prohibited the federal government from recognizing same-sex. In Windsor, the Supreme Court ruled that DOMA was unconstitutional under the Fifth Amendment Due Process Clause. It required the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages that have been entered into in states that recognized same-sex marriage. At the time of the Windsor decision New Jersey did not recognize same-sex marriage.

September 2013 – Same-Sex Marriage (Garden State Equality v. Dow)

Back in the New Jersey courts, the plaintiffs in the earlier case of Lewis v. Harris went on to join the Garden State Equality v. Dow 434 N.J.Super 163 (Law Div.2013) case, arguing that civil unions that were created in 2006 did not establish equal rights for same-sex couples. The New Jersey court agreed with the plaintiffs, pointing out that the Windsor case extended the federal benefits of marriage only to same-sex couples in legally recognized marriages, not civil unions. In September 2013 the New Jersey State Superior Court ruled in the Garden State Equality v. Dow case that same-sex couples were being denied equal rights in New Jersey, and ordered same-sex marriages to be allowed beginning on October 21, 2013.

Getting Married in New Jersey

Same-sex couples can now marry in New Jersey and enjoy the same benefits and protections that opposite-sex couples enjoy. Same-sex couples follow the same procedures and are subject to the same requirements of opposite-sex couples. For same-sex couples that married in another state, the State of New Jersey will recognize the marriage so long as the out-of-state marriage is consistent with the laws of New Jersey. If you have any questions about same-sex marriage, call the Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen at 201-845-7400 for a consultation.


New Jersey Department of Health - Same Sex Marriage

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