Same-sex couples will be harmed if the New Jersey Supreme Court delays a lower court's ruling that same-sex marriage be legalized starting next week, a gay rights group said in a court filing Tuesday.
A legal brief Tuesday from Garden State Equality and a group of same-sex couples contends that if couples are not allowed to marry in the state, they'll miss out on several federally provided benefits, including being able to take family medical leave, getting health insurance for partners of federal government employees, being able to file joint income tax returns next year and death benefits from Social Security and other government programs.
The filing is the latest in a volley of legal arguments between gay rights advocates and the administration of Gov. Chris Christie since Judge Mary Jacobson ruled last month that the state must recognize same-sex marriage beginning Oct. 21. She found that a June U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allowed the federal government to recognize gay marriage is the reason that New Jersey must allow gay marriage. If same-sex couples cannot marry here, they can be denied federal benefits, and that would violate the state constitution, the judge ruled.
Christie, a Republican in the midst of a re-election campaign and a possible presidential contender in 2016, has appealed both the ruling and the start date. Christie supports civil unions, which have been the law of the state since 2007 and offer gay couples the legal protections of marriage, but not the title.
The state's top court has set oral arguments for the overall case for Jan. 6 or 7.
But with less than a week before Jacobson's deadline, the court must consider quickly whether to allow gay couples to marry in the meantime. Jacobson last week denied the state's request to delay her order.
The arguments before the Supreme Court are similar to what both sides presented to Jacobson.
The state argues that it has a likelihood of winning the overall appeal, that the authority of the state government's law would be undermined, and that one judge should not have the power to make such a major social change.
The plaintiffs dispute that reasoning. “The state offers no new arguments in support of its contention that this court should grant a stay simply because this case involves constitutional issues that have ‘social impact,’” lawyers Lawrence Lustberg and Halyely Gorenberg wrote in their brief.