Why Yesterday’s Supreme Court Case Impacts New Jersey, Whether Chris Christie Likes It Or Not

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) infamously vetoed a marriage equality bill back in 2012, and Wednesday night made it clear he’d do it again despite the Supreme Court overturning the Defense of Marriage Act. At TownSquare Media’s “Ask the Governor,” he condemned the opinion and doubled down on a public referendum on same-sex marriage:

CHRISTIE: It’s just another example of judicial supremacy rather than having a government run by the people we actually vote for. I thought it was a bad decision, but it has no effect on New Jersey at all so we move from here. […]

What I’ve said all along is what I said when I vetoed the last one: “let the people decide.” You’re talking about changing an institution that’s over 2000 years old. The Democrats are putting an increase in the minimum wage on the ballot. That’s important enough to put on the ballot but gay marriage is not? […]

I’ve made it very clear since 2009 that I believe marriage should be between one man and one woman. I’ve said that, I ran on that, and I’ve said it consistently. That doesn’t mean in any way shape or form that I have anything against folks who are homosexual. In fact, I’ve said that I believe people are born that way; I don’t believe it’s a choice.

Watch Christie’s full discussion of the issue:

Besides the fact that a referendum continues to be a costly, offensive, and unnecessary option, Christie could not be more wrong; in fact, Wednesday’s DOMA decision probably has a bigger impact on New Jersey than on any other state. In the 2006 case Lewis v. Harris, the New Jersey Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the state’s constitution guarantees “every statutory right and benefit conferred to heterosexual couples through civil marriage.” The Court left it up to the legislature to determine how those rights are conferred, and lawmakers at the time passed a civil unions bill. An investigation that concluded in 2008 found that these “separate but equal” unions were inferior and did not meet the Supreme Court’s expectations, and a lawsuit is already pending to challenge their unequal status.

With Wednesday’s ruling, the case against the civil unions becomes much more significant. Now, not only are civil unions inferior in how they’re respected in the state, they also deprive same-sex couples of all the federal benefits of marriage — the only union the federal government recognizes. A state judge has already scheduled a hearing for August 15 to fast-track Lambda Legal’s lawsuit in light of these new legal circumstances.

At the time he vetoed the marriage equality bill, Christie claimed, “I have been just as adamant that same-sex couples in a civil union deserve the very same rights and benefits enjoyed by married couples.” That may have been remotely possible while DOMA was still law, but it’s very much impossible now. Full marriage equality is now the only way to fulfill New Jersey’s constitutional guarantee of equality for same-sex couples.