Family Law

New Jersey trial judge orders state to recognize same-sex marriage

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A New Jersey trial judge Friday granted an emergency motion ordering the state to recognize gay marriage.

Current law only recognizes civil unions, the Star-Ledger reports, and Mercer County Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson’s order (PDF) is expected to be appealed.

The action (PDF) was filed after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act. Lawyers for Garden State Equity and Lambda Legal argued that state law recognizing civil unions—but not same-sex marriage—blocks citizens from receiving federal benefits.

Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, is opposed to same-sex marriage, according to the Associated Press. State lawyers have argued that the term “marriage” should be reserved for straight couples, NBC News reports.

“The ineligibility of same-sex couples for federal benefits is currently harming same-sex couples in New Jersey in a wide range of contexts,” Jacobson wrote in her order.

As examples, she mentioned that “civil union partners who are federal employees living in New Jersey are ineligible for marital rights with regard to the federal pension system, all civil union partners who are employees working for businesses to which the Family and Medical Leave Act applies may not rely on its statutory protections for spouses, and civil union couples may not access the federal tax benefits that married couples enjoy.”

The order lists Oct. 21 as a start date for New Jersey officials to begin officiating same-sex marriages.

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