Marriage Equality

The Road to Marriage Equality in New Jersey

On February 16, 2012, a bill, Senate, No. 1, legalizing same-sex marriage in New Jersey – originally introduced on January 10, 2012 – passed both houses of the legislature. Then, on February 17, 2012, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie promptly vetoed the bill, arguing that the issue should be decided by New Jersey’s citizens through the voting process. Advocates of the bill then labored to convince state lawmakers to override Christie’s veto in a special session.

The U.S. Supreme Court later issued a decision in United States v. Windsor on June 26, 2013, declaring that if a state legalizes same-sex marriage, then the federal government would not be permitted to deny benefits to same-sex couples legally married in that state. The decision struck down what had been a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act ( DOMA ). However, and significantly, it did not direct the federal government to confer any benefits on couples in state civil unions or domestic partnerships, and does not alter the authority of states to decide independently whether or not to permit same-sex marriage.

Three months later, on September 27, 2013, New Jersey Mercer County Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson issued a decision in the case of Garden State Equality v. Dow, directing state officials in New Jersey to allow same-sex couples to marry. Judge Jacobson based the opinion on a denial of equal protection under the state constitution to same-sex couples, as evidenced by the hundreds of federal benefits being granted to married same-sex couples in in the wake of the Windsor decision. For more information, including Judge Jacobson’s opinion, as well as other documents filed in this landmark NJ Same-Sex Marriage Case, please see this segment of the New Jersey Judiciary web site.

Shortly thereafter, on October 11, 2013, the New Jersey Supreme Court granted the State of New Jersey’s request for direct certification of the lower court decision in Garden State Equality and assumed jurisdiction over the State’s request for a stay of the order directing officials to allow same-sex marriages. New Jersey highest Court set a calendar for the appeal in the case, scheduling oral arguments in the appeal for January 6-7, 2014.

One week later, on October 18, 2013, the New Jersey Supreme Court declined to issue a stay in the implementation of Judge Mary Jacobson’s order, indicating that the State failed to show how it would be harmed by following the directive. The denial of the stay was significant in that the New Jersey Supreme Court, as evidenced by its interim decision, did not believe that the State of New Jersey had “a reasonable probability of success on the merits” of the then pending appeal.

Ultimately, on October 21, 2013, NJ Same-Sex Marriages began at 12:01 a.m., with Governor Christie withdrawing the State’s appeal.

Notably, New Jersey’s Office of Vital Statistics – which oversees the issuing of NJ Marriage Licenses – has announced that couples who are already in NJ Civil Unions or NJ Domestic Partnerships can obtain marriage licenses without first dissolving their Civil Unions or Domestic Partnerships, as long as they are marrying the same partner. Couples in Civil Unions or Domestic Partnerships who choose not to marry, will continue to have their legal relationships left intact.

Now, same-sex married couples in New Jersey will follow the same NJ Divorce Process (Mike: Please link this to the Divorce Page I have already sent on to you. [I might later have a separate one just to outline the process, but it’s not ready yet.] Thanks!) as opposite-sex married couples in order to end their marital relationship. The NJ Divorce Process includes Planning, Organizing, Leading and Coordinating the progress of your particular NJ Divorce, in order to guarantee that we work together as best we can to optimize the likelihood of obtaining positive, lasting results in the following outcome areas, among others:

  • NJ Alimony / NJ Spousal Support
  • NJ Child Custody, Parenting Time / Visitation
  • NJ Child Support – NJ Child Support Guidelines / Non-Guidelines Cases
  • NJ Equitable Distribution / Division of Property – Assets & Liabilities
  • Selecting Grounds for NJ Divorce, Including Domestic Torts Where Applicable

The reputable NJ Family Law Attorneys at Romanowski Law Offices can help you to replace your uncertainties with a new sense of knowledge-based understanding. We have a proven ability to facilitate your discovery of the legal rights that are yours to own within NJ Divorce Process, while guaranteeing that we put forth our best efforts to help you carefully address, evaluate and pursue your safety, money, health and general welfare needs, as may be related to the positive results you seek in your particularly significant or unique circumstances.

Following the conclusion of your NJ Divorce, in the unfortunate event you encounter difficulties enforcing your legal rights or meeting your various obligations, we can file compelling post-judgment motions or applications to persuade the court to modify or enforce the terms of your NJ Judgment of Divorce or NJ Property Settlement Agreement ( PSA ) / NJ Matrimonial Settlement Agreement ( MSA ).

Although every NJ Divorce case involves its own particular set of legally cognizable facts and social factors, same-sex married couples may face some issues that are possibly more complex than those issues many opposite-sex couples experience. Notably, New Jersey couples who are already involved in NJ Civil Unions or NJ Domestic Partnerships can now marry their current legal partners without first terminating their existing civil unions or domestic partnerships. It is likewise important to note that any prior relationships that have not been previously terminated will remain intact following the NJ Same-Sex Marriage. The legal significance of this is that partners ending their New Jersey Same-Sex Marriage may also have to end their earlier undissolved Civil Union or Domestic Partnership.

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If you are seriously interested in benefiting from the significant contributions that a knowledgeable, experienced, and respected NJ Family Law Firm can make, Contact Romanowski Law Offices today for a free initial consultation.

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