Metro Weekly

New Jersey protects same-sex marriage from Supreme Court

Democrats had feared that an activist Supreme Court might overturn landmark gay marriage case, leaving same-sex families in the lurch.

wedding, gay, marriage, same-sex
Gay married couple’s hands – Photo: Nick Karvounis / Unsplash

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) has signed a bill ensuring same-sex marriages will be considered legal and continue to be recognized in the state, even if the conservative judges on the Supreme Court overturn the court’s 2015 landmark decision legalizing marriage equality nationwide. 

“Despite the progress we have made as a country, there is still much work to be done to protect the LGBTQ+ community from intolerance and injustice,” Murphy said in a statement.

“New Jersey is stronger and fairer when every member of our LGBTQ+ family is valued and given equal protection under the law,” he added. “I am honored to sign legislation that represents our New Jersey values and codifies marriage equality into state law.”

The bill signed by Murphy previously passed the State Senate, 35-4, and the Assembly by a 53-10 vote, with five representatives abstaining, according to news website NJ.com.

Democrats in the state had pushed for the bill’s passage to ensure same-sex couples and their families would continue to be able to marry, adopt, and raise children even if the U.S. Supreme Court choose to overturn the court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges.

Some LGBTQ advocates and allies fear that the court’s six conservative justices will reverse the Obergefell decision based on their personal prejudices, especially after oral arguments in a Mississippi anti-abortion law case, in which the justices appeared open to overturning the court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which invalidated state laws prohibiting women from seeking abortions. Some of the legal arguments underpinning the Roe decision were subsequently used to argue in favor of invalidating state bans on same-sex marriage in Obergefell. 

To protect same-sex nuptials from a future court’s rulings, lawmakers first had to pass a bill codifying same-sex marriage into state statute. The state’s Democratic-controlled legislature had attempted to legalize same-sex marriage in 2012, but was unable to override a veto by then-Gov. Chris Christie (R), who wanted to force a statewide referendum on the issue.

The following year, a New Jersey judge ruled that banning same-sex marriage violated the right to equal protection guaranteed by the state Constitution. The New Jersey Supreme Court subsequently refused to hear an appeal of that ruling, thereby legalizing same-sex marriage. Christie’s administration eventually dropped its legal challenge to the ruling and same-sex couples in the Garden State began to wed. Two years later, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled state bans on same-sex nuptials unconstitutional.

Thomas Prol, a founding and current executive committee member of LGBTQ rights organization Garden State Equality, praised Murphy’s actions, saying in a statement that “securing marriage equality in New Jersey for committed same-sex couples and their families has literally been a labor of love at Garden State Equality for nearly two decades.”

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