On Monday, New Jersey will become the 14th state in America in which gay couples can legally marry — but it's not all good news: the legalization might be temporary. Unlike other states, which legalized same-sex marriage thanks to overwhelming votes by lawmakers, New Jersey saw a single judge, Mary Jacobson, rule in September that NJ had to start allowing gay marriages from Oct. 21. Jacobson then refused an appeal by NJ governor Chris Christie, whose administration was keen to delay the Oct. 21 start date to buy more time to shoot down Jacobson's ruling. On Friday, a Supreme Court supported Jacobson's original ruling, which issued an Oct. 21 start date — meaning that gay couples will be able to marry in NJ starting Monday.
Jacobson's original ruling cited the strike-down of DOMA on June, and New Jersey's equal protection laws. Basically, Jacobson wrote, there was literally no reason gay marriage was illegal in New Jersey. She used different language, though: "Same-sex couples must be allowed to marry in order to obtain equal protection of the law under the New Jersey Constitution," she noted in the official filing.
Chris Christie has approved some left-leaning legislation recently, including a ban on gay conversion therapy, and an easing on restrictions for medical marijuana for sick minors. But his administration remains adamantly opposed to same-sex marriage, even though a recent poll indicated that most of New Jersey's residents are in favor of it. In his request to delay Jacobson's start-date, he said that allowing one person to decide such an issue would do "irreparable harm" to the state.
"Never before has any court at any level declared that the validity of a state statute under the state constitution depends on the vicissitudes of a third party actor with whom the State has no nexus and over whom it has no control," continued his appeal. In plain English: a single person can't make a decision for the entire state. (Hey, Christie? Pot, kettle, black, anyone?)
In Jacobson's rebuttal, she wrote: "The 'harm' (the state) alleges simply cannot justify depriving plaintiffs and other same-sex couples of equality in the form of access to important federal marital benefits." You go, sister.
Christie took his appeal to the NJ's Supreme Court, and the state's highest court unanimously voted to uphold the start date Jacobson ruled — which is Monday! Though Christie may continue to appeal, the clear majority support for the cause will nix the delay he had hoped for, but this doesn't mean that gay marriage will stay legal. If Christie takes his case to federal court, for example, and they reject Jacobson's ruling, then New Jersey might be forced to go back to legally accepting only same-sex civil unions.
We've got our fingers crossed that the ruling will stick...