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Advocates ask NJ judge not to delay gay marriage

  • Article by: GEOFF MULVIHILL
  • Associated Press
  • October 4, 2013 - 4:15 PM

Gay-rights advocates on Friday asked a New Jersey judge to proceed with implementation of her order that the state start allowing same-sex marriages this month, saying the state failed to show irreparable harm if the nuptials take place.

"Every day that same-sex cannot marry is a day that they do not have — and risk permanently losing — vital benefits relating to their health, income, quality of life, personal and financial security, and family stability," Lambda Legal lawyer Hayley Gorenberg wrote in a brief on behalf of a half-dozen gay couples and the Garden State Equality civil rights group. "In contrast, the state asserts no real hardships at all."

The filing was the latest legal step in a flurry of recent action in New Jersey courts over whether gay couples can be allowed to wed.

Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson ruled on Sept. 27 that gay marriage must be allowed in the state in light of the U.S. Supreme Court's June ruling that the federal government can't deny benefits to married gay couples. Those benefits range from Social Security survivor benefits to joint income tax filings.

The administration of Republican Gov. Chris Christie, a possible presidential contender in 2016, announced immediately that it would appeal. It did so this week, asking the state's Supreme Court to take on the case and requesting that the judge stay her decision until the appeal is resolved.

The Christie administration argued that a state law can't be found to violate the state constitution because of an action by the federal government.

New Jersey has civil unions for gay couples but not marriages, which are now legal in 13 states, including most in the Northeast.

Federal agencies are still formulating their policies for providing benefits, but in several cases couples who have civil unions or who live in states where gay marriage isn't legal won't receive federal benefits.

The judge has given New Jersey until Monday to respond to Friday's brief, if it chooses, and has said she would rule based on briefs and not hear arguments on whether to issue the stay requested by the state. A ruling on the stay can be appealed to a higher court.

Along with the legal fight, there's a political fight over same-sex marriage rights. Last year, Christie vetoed a bill that would have granted them. Gay-rights groups are pushing lawmakers to override the veto by January.

© 2014 Star Tribune