Marriage equality opponents are quickly running out of options in the Garden State.
A New Jersey judge on Thursday denied Gov. Chris Christie’s request to temporarily block gay couples from obtaining marriage licenses. Judge Mary Jacobson, the same judge who last month ruled that the state must allow gay couples to marry starting Oct. 21, rejected the administration’s argument that doing so would “cause the state to suffer irreparable harm.”
“Granting a stay would simply allow the state to continue to violate the equal protection rights of New Jersey same-sex couples, which can hardly be considered a public interest,” Jacobson wrote.
In response, the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office on Thursday evening asked a higher court for permission to file an emergency appeal. Christie’s office, which declined a request for comment, has asked for a stay while its appeal to Jacobson’s initial ruling is considered by the state Supreme Court. Jacobson said in her order Thursday that the state was not likely to win.
At issue is the intersection of two Supreme Court rulings–one federal, and one state. In 2006, New Jersey’s state Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples could not be denied the same rights and benefits given to heterosexual couples. In response, the legislature passed a law allowing civil unions.
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) clearing the way for legally married same-sex couples to receive the same federal benefits as heterosexual couples. Now, plaintiffs argue that civil unions no longer afford them the same benchmark of equality mandated by the 2006 state Supreme Court order, because only married couples are eligible for federal benefits.
Christie’s administration argues that it’s the federal government’s fault, not the state’s, if couples in civil unions are denied certain benefits. The Republican governor and possible 2016 presidential candidate has said repeatedly that marriage equality should be left up to the voters, while LGBT rights advocates contend it’s a civil rights issue.
A Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday found 61% of the state’s residents in opposition to Christie on marriage equality. Thirty-two percent agreed with him.