New Jersey must allow marriage between same-sex couples, a state judge ruled, clearing the way for those marriages to begin Oct. 21, 2013. The court’s ruling follows on the heels of a landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court last June, overturning the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman. In its wake, the state court agreed that New Jersey’s stance—allowing civil unions between same-sex couples but not marriage—imposes inequality on same-sex couples in civil unions and creates an incomplete set of rights that is not compatible with a reasonable conception of human dignity.
The case is Garden State Equality v. Dow, N.J. Super. Ct., No. L-1729-11 (Sept. 27, 2013).
New Jersey’s Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman asked the court to stay its order while his office plans an appeal to the state’s highest court. If a stay is issued, employee benefits for same-sex couples will remain unchanged. Otherwise, Garden State employers will need to examine policies and practices that extend spousal benefits, including benefit plans and leave policies.
Diane Cadrain is an attorney who has been writing about employment law issues for more than 20 years.