Entries from: New Jersey

N.J. must let same-sex couples marry, judge rules

njmarriageA state court judge in New Jersey today ruled that state officials must issue same-sex couples marriage licenses beginning October 21, but the decision is expected to be appealed by the administration of Gov. Chris Christie.

New Jersey Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson said the state’s civil unions law harmed same-sex couples who are now missing out on federal benefits available to legally married same-sex couples.  ”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, specifically citing federal pension benefits, federal tax benefits and the applicability of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.

The lawsuit claiming New Jersey’s civil unions law was insufficient was brought by the groups Garden State Equality and Lambda Legal.

A big day for marriage equality

gregoireIt’s another day of progress on the marriage front, as the New Jersey Senate passes a marriage equality bill, Gov. Christine Gregoire signs Washington’s marriage bill into law and Freedom to Marry launches a grassroots campaign to add marriage equality to the Democratic Party’s 2012 platform language.

A bill upgrading New Jersey’s civil unions law to full marriage equality passed on a 24-16 bipartisan vote in the State Senate, and a similar vote in the State House is set for Thursday.  Gov. Chris Christie has promised to veto the measure when it reaches his desk, but proponents have until January 2014 to try to override his veto.

Marriage equality is now the law of the land in Washington, as Gov. Gregoire (pictured), flanked by openly gay and lesbian state lawmakers and their partners, today signed legislation and predicted the state’s voters would uphold the new law if opponents force the question onto a statewide ballot.  ”Washington will say yes because a family is a family,” said Gregoire.  “It is time to give our loving gay and lesbian couples a chance to have a married life in the state of Washington.”

Freedom to Marry, a national advocacy group, today began collecting signatures on a petition it hopes will influence the Democratic Party to embrace full marriage rights for same-sex couples as it develops its 2012 platform language.  ”It is now time that the national Democratic Party formally recognize the freedom to marry as a core value by including it in its party platform to be ratified in September at the Democratic National Convention,” said Marc Solomon, National Campaign Director at Freedom to Marry.

Openly gay New Jersey mayor nominated to State Supreme Court

In a historic move, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced today the nomination of Bruce Harris to the New Jersey Supreme Court. If confirmed, Harris would become the first openly LGBT member of the Court.

In November, Harris was elected mayor of Chatham Borough after serving on the Chatham Borough Council for eight years. He’s likely the nation’s first openly gay, African American, Republican mayor.

“We’re thrilled for Bruce and commend Gov. Christie for recognizing the importance of diversity in the courts,” said Chuck Wolfe, Victory Fund’s president and CEO. “We endorsed Bruce in his race for mayor because he’s an exemplary public servant, and he will be an honest, fair voice on the New Jersey Supreme Court.”

N.J. adds an openly gay state legislator

tim eustaceMayor Tim Eustace of Maywood, N.J., has been elected to the New Jersey Assembly tonight, becoming the first openly gay non-incumbent to win a seat in the legislature.

Eustace will join Assemblymember Reed Gusciora, who won his reelection bid, as New Jersey’s only openly gay state lawmakers.

New Jersey anti-bullying bill heads to governor’s desk

gseJust one state legislator voted against a tough new law that requires New Jersey schools to develop anti-bullying programs.  The measure was pushed by the statewide LGBT group Garden State Equality.

“My vote today was for any child who has gone home in tears because he or she was bullied, and every parent who didn’t know what to do or who to contact,” said state Sen. Diane Allen, a Republican from Edgewater Park.

Gay students applauded the move, but some groups plan to challenge the law if Gov. Chris Christie (R) signs the bill, according to the Associated Press:

Sixteen-year-old Matthew Zimmer, of Ridgewood, who says he’s been bullied because he’s gay, testified before a legislative committee about the bill and was there Monday to see it pass.
“It means so much to me,” he said afterward. “I endured bullying by students as well as administrative bullying by the school. It is looking up.”
Groups of social conservatives spoke out against the bill, which got only one vote against it in either chamber. Some fear that the education provisions will legitimize gay marriage — which New Jersey doesn’t recognize — and force children to be taught about homosexuality in school.
Public-interest law firms want to challenge the law if the governor signs it, said Greg Quinlan of the New Jersey Family Policy Council.

Sixteen-year-old Matthew Zimmer, of Ridgewood, who says he’s been bullied because he’s gay, testified before a legislative committee about the bill and was there Monday to see it pass.

“It means so much to me,” he said afterward. “I endured bullying by students as well as administrative bullying by the school. It is looking up.”

Groups of social conservatives spoke out against the bill, which got only one vote against it in either chamber. Some fear that the education provisions will legitimize gay marriage — which New Jersey doesn’t recognize — and force children to be taught about homosexuality in school.

Public-interest law firms want to challenge the law if the governor signs it, said Greg Quinlan of the New Jersey Family Policy Council.