N.J. ruling hailed in The City

State’s high court decides same-sex couples entitled to rights heterosexuals enjoy

Weeks after a California appeals court decided to uphold a ban on gay marriage, local gay marriage advocates are applauding a decision by New Jersey’s highest court that paves the way for same-sex marriage in that state.

The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that gay couples are entitled to the same rights as heterosexual ones, though it remains to be seen what name would be given to the relationships. The court’s 4-3 decision gives lawmakers six months to decide if same-sex couples’ rights should be called marriage, civil unions or by another name.

“It’s helpful to have a sister court say full equality must” prevail, said Kate Kendell, an attorney for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which has offices on Market Street. “It’s nice to have a win, to have a court anywhere say your lives matter and that the Constitution includes you.”

Three weeks ago, a decision by the California state appeals court reversed a March 2005 ruling bya lower court that said denying marriage to same-sex couples violates their constitutional right to equal protection. San Francisco, a party in the legal battle, is appealing the case to the state Supreme Court.

San Francisco and New Jersey’s cases are similar in that they’re both concerned with issues of equal protection, said Terese Stewart, chief deputy city attorney in San Francisco.

“All seven justices [in New Jersery] held that it [a ban on gay marriage or civil unions] violates equal protection,” Stewart said.

The state Supreme Court is slated to receive an application from The City next month and will likely take up the case next year, said Matt Dorsey, a spokesman for the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office.

Equal legal protection under the law means gay couples may have the same dignity and respect enjoyed by their straight counterparts, said Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California.

Marriage includes hundreds of rights and responsibilities and tax breaks, plus the stability of marriage, Kors said.

Thirteen months ago, Sacramento lawmakers passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage only to have Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger veto it. The governor said a higher court should decide the matter.

San Francisco Assemblyman Mark Leno has vowed to put the measure on the governor’s desk again in the coming legislative session.

The New Jersey ruling could influence the governor to change his mind, Stewart said.

mcarroll@examiner.comBay Area NewsLocal

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Recology executives have acknowledged overcharging city ratepayers. (Mira Laing/2017 Special to S.F. Examiner)
Recology to repay customers $95M in overcharged garbage fees, city attorney says

San Francisco’s waste management company, Recology, has agreed to repay its customers… Continue reading

A construction worker watches a load for a crane operator at the site of the future Chinatown Muni station for the Central Subway on Tuesday, March 3, 2021. (Sebastian Miño-Bucheli / Special to the S.F. Examiner)
Major construction on Central Subway to end by March 31

SFMTA board approves renegotiated contract with new deadline, more contractor payments

(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Settlement clears path for all youth, high school sports to resume in California

John Maffei The San Diego Union-Tribune All youth and high school sports… Continue reading

State to reserve 40 percent of COVID-19 vaccines for hard-hit areas

By Eli Walsh Bay City News Foundation State officials said Thursday that… Continue reading

Neighbors and environmental advocates have found the Ferris wheel in Golden Gate Park noisy and inappropriate for its natural setting. <ins>(</ins>
Golden Gate Park wheel wins extension, but for how long?

Supervisors move to limit contract under City Charter provision requiring two-thirds approval

Most Read