New Jersey became the 14th state—along with the District of Columbia—to allow same-sex marriages. The State Supreme Court declined to delay enforcement of the district court order to allow same-sex marriages on Oct. 21, 2013. After the first marriages had been performed, Governor Chris Christie dropped the state’s appeal and ordered New Jersey officials to enforce the decision.
On Sept. 27, District Court Judge Mary Jacobson of Mercer County ordered the state to recognize same-sex marriages because the state’s civil unions do not provide access to the same federal benefits that are available to married opposite sex couples. She delayed the effect of the order until Oct. 21 to allow for an appeal. She later refused to delay that order, concluding that the state was unlikely to win on appeal. The State Supreme Court agreed unanimously.
In 2006, the New Jersey Supreme Court ordered that New Jersey adopt laws that provide same-sex couples the same legal rights that were available to married, opposite-sex couples as a matter of equal protection. As a result of that decision, the New Jersey Legislature adopted civil unions for same-sex couples in 2007, giving those couples the same rights as married couples under state law. The Legislature passed a bill to allow same-sex marriage in 2012, but it was vetoed by Christie. In June 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court declared part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, making married, same-sex couples eligible for a wide array of federal benefits, including joint tax filing, inheritance and immigration status. Couples in civil unions are not eligible for the same benefits, so Judge Jacobson found that civil unions no longer provided equal rights to same sex couples and that the state must recognize same-sex marriages.
Thirty-five states still prohibit same-sex marriage in state constitutional provisions and/or in state laws. Only New Mexico does not allow or prohibit same-sex marriage as a matter of state law.
Defining Marriage: State Defense of Marriage Laws and Same-Sex Marriage
Jack Tweedie, 303-856-1546