The unanimous 7-0 decision denied Gov. Chris Christieâ€™s request to postpone Mercer County Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobsonâ€™s Sept. 27 ruling that found the stateâ€™s civil unions law prevents same-sex couples from obtaining federal marriage benefits until the justices rule on his administration’s appeal of it.
The U.S. Supreme Court in June found a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.
â€śThe stateâ€™s statutory scheme effectively denies committed same-sex partners in New Jersey the ability to receive federal benefits not afforded to married partners,â€ť the New Jersey Supreme Court decision reads.
New Jersey on Monday will join 13 other states and D.C. in which gays and lesbians can marry.
LGBT rights advocates have filed lawsuits on behalf of same-sex couples seeking marriage rights in neighboring Pennsylvania and other states that include Virginia, Ohio, Nevada and New Mexico.
Illinois lawmakers next week are poised to potentially debate a measure that would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples. Lawmakers in Hawaii will consider the issue in a special legislative session that begins on Oct. 28.
BuzzFeed on Friday reported that Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who defeated former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan earlier this week in the U.S. Senate race to succeed the late-New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg, will officiate several same-sex weddings at 12:01 a.m. on Monday. Asbury Park and other municipalities on Friday began to issue marriage licenses to gays and lesbians in spite of an order from the New Jersey Department of Health that told them not to do so until the state Supreme Court ruled.
â€śOn Monday, New Jersey will begin to tear down its Berlin Wall separating straight people who had total freedom, and LGBT people who have not,â€ť Steven Goldstein, founder of Garden State Equality, a statewide LGBT advocacy group, said in a statement. â€śGovernor Christie, not even you have the power to resurrect that wall.â€ť
â€śThe long wait in New Jersey is finally over: the door is open for love, commitment and equality under the law,â€ť Haley Gorenberg, deputy legal director of Lambda Legal, which filed the same-sex marriage case on behalf of Garden State Equality and six same-sex couples in 2011, added. â€śThis is a huge victory for New Jerseyâ€™s same-sex couples and their families.â€ť
The state Supreme Court in January is scheduled to hear oral arguments on Christieâ€™s appeal.
Lawmakers have until Jan. 14 to override the governorâ€™s 2012 veto of a same-sex marriage bill.
“The Supreme Court has made its determination,” Christie spokesperson Michael Drewniak said in a statement. “While the governor firmly believes that this determination should be made by all the people of the state of New Jersey, he has instructed the Department of Health to cooperate with all municipalities in effectuating the order of the Superior Court under the applicable law.”
“Chief Justice Rabner left no ambiguity about the unanimous court’s view on the ultimate decision in this matter when he wrote, ‘same-sex couples who cannot marry are not treated equally under the law today,’” Christie spokesperson Colin Reed said, referring to the state Supreme Court’s unanimous decision on Friday that denied the governor’s request to postpone Mercer County Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobsonâ€™s Sept. 27 ruling that found the stateâ€™s civil unions law prevents same-sex couples from obtaining federal marriage benefits until the justices rule on his administrationâ€™s appeal of it. “Although the governor strongly disagrees with the court substituting its judgment for the constitutional process of the elected branches or a vote of the people, the court has now spoken clearly as to their view of the New Jersey Constitution and, therefore, same-sex marriage is the law.”
Christie’s announcement comes hours after gays and lesbians began to exchange vows in the Garden State.
Lambertville City Councilwoman Beth Asaro and Joanne Schailey, who in 2007 became the first same-sex couple to take advantage of New Jerseyâ€™s civil unions law, exchanged vows during a brief ceremony that Lambertville Mayor David DelVecchio officiated at midnight.
â€śWe remained optimistic and hopeful that we would be able to get together and do the just thing, the right thing,â€ť DelVecchio said. â€śNow weâ€™re here.â€ť
Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who defeated former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonehan last week to succeed the late-U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), officiated seven same-sex weddings at Newark City Hall shortly after Asaro and Schailey tied the knot. A heckler briefly interrupted the proceedings before security personnel escorted him out of the building.
Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop married eight gay and lesbian couples at Jersey City Hall after midnight.
Louise Walpin and Marsha Shapiro of Monmouth Junction, who filed a lawsuit seeking marriage rights in 2011 on which Jacobson ruled, exchanged vows at the home of state Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-Elizabeth) shortly after midnight. Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck) walked the two women down the aisle.
Steven Goldstein, founder of Garden State Equality, an LGBT rights group, read a Jewish blessing.
14 states and D.C. now allow gays and lesbians to marry.
The New Mexico Supreme Court on Wednesday is scheduled to hear oral arguments in a case that is expected to determine whether same-sex couples can legally marry throughout the state. LGBT rights advocates have filed lawsuits on behalf of gays and lesbians seeking to exchange vows in Pennsylvania and other states that include Virginia, Ohio, Nevada and New Mexico.
Illinois lawmakers this week are poised to potentially debate a measure that would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples. Lawmakers in Hawaii will consider the issue in a special legislative session that begins on Oct. 28.
Oregon officials on Oct. 16 announced they would recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other jurisdictions.
Observers noted Christie had little choice but to drop his appeal of Jacobson’s decision.
“The handwriting was on the wall as clearly as it could possibly be,” Larry Lustberg, a lawyer who represented Walpin and Shapiro and the other plaintiffs in the 2011 case, told reporters on a conference call on Monday as he spoke about the state Supreme Court’s decision. “This was inevitable.”
Hayley Gorenberg of Lambda Legal said during the same conference call that the justices’ ruling is “the last word from the court and marriage equality is now the law in New Jersey.”
Log Cabin Republicans Executive Director Gregory T. Angelo applauded Christie’s decision to drop his appeal of Jacobson’s ruling.
“Governor Christie apparently knew he was fighting a losing battle in continuing to fight against marriage equality in the Garden State,” Angelo said in a statement. “Rather than engage in legal gymnastics, decided to plant himself on the right side of history. Log Cabin Republicans thanks Governor Christie for doing the right thing.”
National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown sharply criticized the state Supreme Court and Christie.
“The refusal of the New Jersey Supreme Court to order a stay of the same-sex ‘marriage’ ruling was wrong, and the latest example of an activist judiciary running amok, substituting their views for those of the people of the state,” he said. “Still, we are extremely disappointed in Gov. Chris Christie for withdrawing the state’s appeal of the underlying decision, effectively throwing in the towel on marriage. The mark of a leader is to walk a principled walk no matter the difficulty of the path. Chris Christie has failed the test, abandoning both voters and the core institution of society – marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”
The Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund on Tuesday named 10 openly LGBT candidates as part of its annual â€śRaces to Watchâ€ť list after endorsing a total of 85Â LGBT candidatesÂ that it saysÂ represents an all-time high for an off-year election.
Among those on the â€śRaces to Watchâ€ť list are lesbian Annise Parker, whoâ€™s considered the favorite to win re-election to her third term as mayor of Houston; and gay Washington State Sen. Ed Murray, whoâ€™s ahead in the polls in his race for mayor of Seattle.
â€ś2013 isnâ€™t an off year,â€ť said Victory Fund Political Director Lucinda Guinn. â€śItâ€™s definitely on at the Victory Fund.â€ť
Guinn said the national LGBT advocacy group that raises money and provides campaign support for LGBT candidates for public office was focusing on candidates in places where LGBT rights have not advanced as rapidly as in other parts of the country.
â€śWeâ€™re working hard this year to help build up heroes in places where equality is late in arriving,â€ť she said in a statement. â€śPlaces where these candidates can be the spark to help their own communities move toward equality.â€ť
Of the 85 LGBT candidates the Victory Fund endorsed this year, 18 have won primaries and advanced to the general election on Nov. 5; 14 have won in general elections already held; and one emerged as the victor in a run-off election, bringing the total number of winning LGBT candidates so far to 33.
Nine Victory Fund-endorsed candidates lost their 2013 races in primaries and three have lost in a general election, bringing the total number of losses so far to 12, according to data released by the group.
One of the most prominent candidates who didnâ€™t make it through their primary race was lesbian Democrat Christine Quinn, speaker of the New York City Council, who lost her race to become New Yorkâ€™s first openly gay mayor to pro-LGBT Democrat Bill de Blasio.
Also losing in a primary contest was gay State Rep. Carl Sciortino of Massachusetts, a Democrat who ran for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives formerly held by U.S. Sen. Edward Markey.
Fifty-four Victory Fund-endorsed candidates are running in the Nov. 5 general election for local and state offices throughout the country, according to information released this week by the Victory Fund.
Among them are at least three openly gay candidates in the D.C. metropolitan area. Gay Democrat Jay Fisette is running for re-election to a fifth term on the Arlington County Board, the countyâ€™s legislative governing body. Heâ€™s considered a strong favorite to retain his seat.
In nearby Falls Church, Va., Lawrence Webb, who lost his re-election bid for his seat on the Falls Church City Council, is running for a seat on the Falls Church School Board.
In Maryland, gay attorney Patrick Wojahn, a former board member of the state LGBT advocacy group Equality Maryland, is running for re-election to the College Park, Md., City Council. Heâ€™s considered a favorite to retain his seat.
In April, gay Mayor Jim Ireton of Salisbury, Md., won his re-election bid by a comfortable margin.
Although Quinn lost her race for mayor, seven openly gay or lesbian candidates are either seeking re-election or election to the New York City Council on Nov. 5 after winning primary elections in September. The Victory Fund has endorsed each of them.
The remaining candidates the Victory Fund announced on Tuesday as members of its â€ś10 Races to Watchâ€ť list are Celia Israel, candidate for the Texas House of Representatives; Robert Lilligen, candidate for the Minneapolis City Council; Chris Seelbach, candidate for the Cincinnati City Council; Darden Rice, candidate for the St. Petersburg, Fla., City Council; Michael Gongora, candidate for Mayor of Miami Beach, Fla.; Tim Eustace, candidate for the New Jersey State Assembly; LaWana Mayfield, candidate for the Charlotte, N.C., City Council; and Catherine LaFond, candidate for the Charleston, S.C., Water System Commission.
The Victory Fund says it doesnâ€™t release the names of openly LGBT candidates who seek the groupâ€™s endorsement but donâ€™t receive it.
â€śWe have a set of criteria for endorsing candidates,â€ť said Victory Fund spokesperson Jeff Spitko. â€śWe want to confirm that they are qualified, have a campaign plan and a path to victory,â€ť he said. â€śWe want to make sure they are viable.â€ť
Spitko said the Victory Fund endorsed 180 openly LGBT candidates in 2012 and 124 of them won their races.
A full list of the openly LGBT candidates endorsed by the Victory Fund and appearing on theÂ Nov. 5 election day ballot can be found here.
Eyes will be on Gov. Chris Christie’s choice for interim U.S. senator in New Jersey if bills sought by LGBT advocates come up for a vote on the floor while he occupies the seat.
On Thursday, Christie announced that he’s designating New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa to occupy the seat on an interim basis after the death of Sen. Frank Lautenberg. ChiesaÂ will hold the seat until New Jersey voters decide on a permanent U.S. senator in a special election set for Oct. 16.
It’s unclear where ChiesaÂ stands on federal LGBT issues. Christie’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request from the Washington Blade to comment on Chiesa’sÂ views
But during a Jan. 25, 2012 interview with NJ Today,Â ChiesaÂ spoke out on the issue of defending state law against pending litigation seeking marriage equality in New Jersey. Articulating a somewhat neutral position, ChiesaÂ said he’ll defend the law banning same-sex marriage, or defend the law if it were changed.
“My role as the legal adviser is to defend the constitution and the laws as they’re passed,” ChiesaÂ said. “We’ll continue to do that. The laws as they’re in place right now to the extend that they’re being contested as being unconstitutional, my office will continue to assert their constitutionality, and if there’s other laws that are passed, it’ll be our job to do the same thing whatever the state of the law is.”
Litigation pending before the state court in New Jersey seeking marriage equality, known as Garden State Equality v. Dow, was filed by Lambda Legal and the statewide LGBT advocacy group Garden State Equality. State officials in other states â€” such as California Attorney General Kamala Harris and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan â€” have refused to defend bans on same-sex marriage against similar lawsuits.
Also on the issue of marriage, ChiesaÂ never changed an existing opinion from previous New Jersey Attorney General Paula Dow saying out-of-state same-sex marriages won’t be recognized in the Garden State.
TJ Helmstetter, a spokesperson for Garden State Equality, said ChiesaÂ was “a surprise pick” and hopes the new interim senator will take the opportunity to learn more about them during his role as U.S. senator.
“We hope that during his time in Washington, however that short that is, that he uses that time like so many other members of both parties to evolve on issues of equality and to really get with the rest of New Jersey, the majority of New Jerseyans, who support fairness for all families,”Â Helmstetter said.
But there’s some evidence of support. Helmstetter praised ChiesaÂ for work in implementing and defending the LGBT-inclusive anti-bullying legislation that Christie signed into law.
“We must give credit where credit is due, and this AG has been helpful, for instance, in defending the anti-bullying ‘Bill of Rights,’ working with our organization to make sure that New Jersey has the strongest anti-bullying bill, not only in law but also in fact,”Â Helmstetter said.
Chiesa’sÂ views on LGBT issues will be important as LGBT advocates seek to overcome the 60-vote threshold to beat a filibuster on bills that may come to the floor in the coming months, such as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the Uniting American Families Act.Â Education reform legislation that includes the Student Non-Discrimination Act and the Safe Schools Improvement Act â€” which a Senate committee will start considering on Tuesday â€” may also come to the floor.
A “no” vote from the Republican would be particularly poignant because ChiesaÂ is occupying a seat held by Lautenberg, whom LGBT advocates praised as a “champion for equality” upon his death his earlier this week.
Chiesa’sÂ views may conform to those views of Christie, who opposes same-sex marriage and vetoed a bill that would have legalized it in the state, but also signed into law one of the strongest LGBT-inclusive anti-bullying bills in the country.
But Helmstetter said it’s possible that state laws in New Jersey against LGBT employment non-discrimination and anti-LGBT bullying would prompt him to vote in favor of similar measures on a federal level.
“I would that expect ChiesaÂ â€” coming from a state that is so overwhelmingly pro-equality and already has protections in place around employment and so many other areas â€” that he would take that knowledge from a pro-equality state to Washington and help spread that equality on a federal level,” Helmstetter said.
The government shutdown is over. Until next time. The government will pay up, and the debt ceiling will be raised. Sadly Ted Cruz will not be tarred and feathered, which oddly enough was my first idea for a Halloween costume.Â But I figure everyone will be dressed as scary Ted talking or Miley twerking.Â So Iâ€™m just going to dip myself in Betadine, pour a bourbon straight up, light up a non-electronic cigarette, declare victory and trick-or-treat as John Boehner. I will, of course, refuse all treats.
Even after a couple of weeks of re-opened government, I still feel essentially shut down. It feels different from the time Newt Gingrich, Son of Chucky, shut the government down in Bill Clintonâ€™s second term. Back then Newt, ironically now of Firing Line, was counting on Bill to be working late in the White House so he could send in Monica Lewinsky with some pizza. Game on! Three years of impeachment shenanigans. Those were the good old days.
Twenty-four billion dollars and rising international laughing stocks later, I like to wonder what would have happened if women had tried to shut the government down? Odds are we would have been in orange onesies in Gitmo in two hours, and Iâ€™d be playing Big Boo, what Honey Boo-Boo is going to look like when she grows up. We would never have made it to 12 days.
Apparently Iâ€™m not as shutdown as some of the Affordable Care Act portals with the rotating rainbow assholes endlessly spinning on timed-out pages.Â Where are all the geniuses who data-minded President Obamaâ€™s re-election?Â They canâ€™t all be developing the next shiny new thing. Where are the Grindr people? Edward Snowden has time on his hands. No one asked me to be a healthcare navigator, so they canâ€™t be that desperate. Maybe Iâ€™ll dress up like HHS Secretary Kathleen Sibelius.
Perhaps itâ€™s that Iâ€™ve been out of town and reading newspapers on my iPad, saving trees, but harming untold numbers of Chinese youth. Not too many youth, because itâ€™s an iPad-mini which seems to mini-mize all news, allowing me to read the headlines, with perhaps two explanatory sentences and then go on to the next news-bit. From government shutdown to gay marriage in New Jersey to baseball playoffs in one small swipe. Congratulations to New Jersey!
Itâ€™s the phrase â€śgovernment shutdownâ€ť that gets me down. No agency. No responsibility. It just up and shut down. Closed in on itself like some big slimy amoeba. Before shutdown comes shut-up or STFU. Behemoth juggernaut Italian cruise ship headed toward the rocks. All by itself. So passive. Chris Christie â€“ lap band, lip band.
The Associated Press reported Assistant New Jersey Attorney General Kevin Jesperson told Mercer County Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson during a hearing in Trenton the federal government should recognize civil unions as marriages for Social Security and other federal benefits. Jesperson said the six gay and lesbian couples who filed a same-sex marriage lawsuit in 2011 should sue the federal agencies â€“ and not the state of New Jersey â€“ that donâ€™t recognize their relationships.
Larry Lustberg, an attorney for Garden State Equality, an LGBT rights group, told Jacobson the state can resolve any potential inequalities same-sex couples face by allowing them to marry.
â€śIt is the state, not the federal government that is the source of the problem here,â€ť Lustberg said as the AP reported.
The hearing took place less than two months after the U.S. Supreme Court found a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional and struck down Californiaâ€™s Proposition 8.
Neighboring New York and Delaware is among the 13 states and D.C. in which same-sex couples can marry. New Jersey and a handful of other states allow gays and lesbians to enter into civil unions.
The American Civil Liberties Union in neighboring Pennsylvania last month filed a lawsuit that challenges the stateâ€™s statutory ban on nuptials for gays and lesbians.
The federal government recognizes the marriages of gays and lesbians who legally tied the knot as a result of the DOMA decision, although same-sex couplesâ€™ ability to receive Social Security and other federal benefits depends upon whether the state in which they live will recognize their unions.
Christie: Couples in civil unions eligible for federal marriage benefits
Governor Chris Christie in 2012 vetoed a bill that would have extended marriage rights to same-sex couples in the state.
Acting New Jersey Attorney General John Hoffman earlier this month argued in a brief he filed with the court that same-sex couples who have entered into civil unions in the state are eligible to receive federal benefits under the U.S. Supreme Courtâ€™s DOMA decision. The Christie administration criticized the White House for withholding federal marriage benefits to gays and lesbians in civil unions.
â€ś[Any] federal policy or directive or interpretation of Windsor that denies benefits to civil union partners violates the due process and equal protection provisions of the United States Constitution as well as New Jerseyâ€™s sovereignty rights,â€ť the brief states.
LGBT rights advocates defended their lawsuit after the hearing.
â€śThe stateâ€™s discrimination is all that bars same-sex couples from the full array of federal protections for their families,â€ť Lambda Legal Deputy Legal Director Hayley Gorenberg said. â€śNew Jersey can fix this â€” and it should. The buck stops right here.â€ť
â€śThe U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down DOMA was historic for the nation, but out of reach for us here in New Jersey,â€ť Cindy Meneghin of Butler, N.J., who, along with her partner of Maureen Kilian and their two children, are among the plaintiffs in the same-sex marriage lawsuit. â€śWe wonâ€™t give up until we have the freedom to marry and the opportunity to share that security and joy with our family.â€ť
The AP reported Jacobson will not rule on the issue until at least next month.