HRC Statement On New Jersey Supreme Court Decision Recognizing Same-Sex Couples' Constitutional Right To Equal Benefits And Protections

On October 25th, Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese made the
following statement regarding the ruling in Lewis v. Harris – a
court case in which the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that same-sex
couples have a constitutional right to receive the same state benefits,
protections, and obligations as opposite-sex married couples. The court
ruled that the legislature must either amend its marriage law to include
same-sex couples or provide these benefits, protections, and obligations
by some other means such as civil unions.

Said Solmonese:

"Today, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples should
have the same rights and obligations as heterosexual couples. This is,
at its core, a pro-family, pro-equality decision. It is now in the
hands of the legislature to do the right thing, and recognize that all
New Jersey families should have the protections that only marriage
provides.

"We congratulate and commend the work of Lambda Legal and the plaintiff
couples who had the courage and resolve to bring this case forward.

"This decision recognizes that New Jersey's constitution protects all
families. The legislature should not go down the path of separate but
equal, but rather should embrace marriage equality. We commend Garden
State Equality and will work with them and other allies to make this a
reality.

"The New Jersey decision only involves the protection and benefits of
civil marriage – not religious ceremonies. This case does not affect
religious institutions' freedom to decide if they want to honor and
recognize same-sex unions.

"Although this case is a major step forward in ending discrimination, a
Federal law, the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, denies same-sex
couples over 1000 protections, and puts these couples at risk that they
will not be recognized as families when they cross state lines.

"Our great country has a tradition of expanding legal protections, as
was done for voting rights and other civil rights protections.
Combating discrimination of all kinds is a fundamental American value.
The Human Rights Campaign applauds this decision."

Lambda Legal filed this case in 2002 on behalf of seven same-sex couples
who were denied marriage licenses. In November 2003, the trial court
ruled against the plaintiffs, and on June 14, 2005 the intermediate
appellate court upheld the decision. On February 15, 2006, the New
Jersey Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case. Today, all seven
justices concluded that same-sex couples were entitled to the equal
benefits and protections of marriage. Three of those seven went further
and concluded that the New Jersey constitution requires full marriage
equality.

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