In late June 2013, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down key portions of the law named the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The law unjustly required the federal government to discriminate against gay, lesbian and transgender individuals by denying them the right to marry and thus further denying over 1,000 different benefits available only to heterosexual people.
The ramifications from the Court’s ruling were vast. Suddenly individuals who were married in states permitting marriage for same-sex couples were able to:
- Qualify for family health insurance
- Set up pensions together
- File federal joint tax returns and enjoy the benefits thereof
- Sponsor immigration petitions for their spouses, regardless of gender or sex
This newfound equality on the federal level recently paved the way for gay marriage to become legal in the State of New Jersey. On September 27, 2013, Judge Mary C. Jacobson ruled that gay couples in New Jersey were not being afforded equal protection under the law because they could not access the same federal rights as heterosexual married couples.
The New Jersey ruling derived its rationale directly from the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June. Jacobson ruled that gay marriages must begin in a speedy manner, starting on October 21, 2013.
The governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, immediately appealed Jacobson’s decision and sought a stay in the commencement of gay marriages in New Jersey, so that they would not take effect while the appeal was pending.
Polls have repeatedly shown that legalizing gay marriage has overwhelming support in the state of New Jersey, with margins as high as 70% in favor of the policy change. Furthermore, the New Jersey State legislature passed a bill last year legalizing gay marriage, which Christie subsequently vetoed.
On October 21, 2013, another historic turn of events occurred. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announced that his administration would withdraw their appeal and drop their legal challenge to marriage equality in the state just hours after same-sex couples began exchanging vows of marriage.
Mr. Christie’s decision to withdraw his appeal effectively removed the last hurdle from legalizing same-sex marriage in New Jersey.
“Although the governor strongly disagrees with the court substituting its judgment for the constitutional process of the elected branches or a vote of the people, the court has now spoken clearly as to their view of the New Jersey Constitution and, therefore, same-sex marriage is the law,” Governor Christie’s administration said in a statement. “The governor will do his constitutional duty and ensure his administration enforces the law as dictated by the New Jersey Supreme Court.”
It is an honor to be alive at this time as we witness this long-awaited change in civil rights. At the present time 14 states and the District of Columbia now honor marriage equality. It is just a matter of time that history will speak again and all people of this country will be afforded the dignity and civil rights that are long overdue and truly deserved.