Most Americans who live north of the Mason-Dixon line live in states where marriage equality is already state law, but New Jersey is an exception. The state legislature is on board with equal marriage rights, but the state’s Republican governor, Chris Christie, has refused to expand civil rights in the Garden State.
There is, however, another avenue: the courts.
A state judge today ruled to legalize same-sex marriage in New Jersey, saying gay couples would be denied federal benefits if the state kept allowing only civil unions.
Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson granted an emergency request by six gay couples, ordering state officials to begin officiating same-sex marriages on Oct. 21.
David Badash posted the entirety of the ruling, which appears to be based largely on the Supreme Court precedent set in the Defense of Marriage Act case.
So, does this mean that New Jersey has suddenly joined the 13 other states (and the District of Columbia) where marriage equality is legal? Not just yet – this was a state district court ruling, which Christie will appeal. It’s likely that between now and Oct. 21, when officials are supposed to start permitting same-sex marriages, an appeals court will leave current state law in place while the case is litigated further.
Still, it’s a step towards civil rights for LGBT Americans in the Garden State.