A state judge has ruled New Jersey’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, citing this year’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage.
Judge Mary Jacobson ruled Friday that the state’s gay marriage ban denies same-sex couples the benefits they are entitled to under the Supreme Court’s ruling. That decision, which struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, paved the way for the U.S. government to recognize same-sex couples for tax and other federal law purposes.
While the state allows civil unions, Jacobson continued, couples are still barred from federal benefits, and therefore must be allowed to marry.
“The detriments plaintiffs experience can be traced directly to a state action – that of enacting the Civil Union Act rather than allowing same-sex marriage,” Jacobson wrote. "For same-sex couples to access all of the rights and benefits of marriage, New Jersey must allow them to…define their relationships as marriage."
"Every day that the state does not allow same-sex couples to marry,” she continued, “plaintiffs are being harmed."
The decision, to go into effect Oct. 21, means 15 states plus the District of Columbia now allow gay marriage, at least for the time being. Friday’s ruling is likely to be appealed. The New Jersey legislature is considering a move to override Gov. Chris Christie’s veto of a bill to allow gay marriage later this year as well. New Mexico, the 14th state to allow gay marriage, has seen counties allow the unions in recent months, and the state Supreme Court will hear arugments in a lawsuit on the matter next month.
Nationwide, the Supreme Court’s ruling set off a flurry of legal activity as same-sex couples and activists sought to capitalize on the federal ruling in their battles against bans currently in place in nearly three dozen states.