The New Jersey Supreme Court issued an arguably unprecedented decision Friday: though they still plan to hear out a case challenging the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, they are going to allow same-sex couples to begin marrying in the state in the meantime. The lower court’s decision will take effect at 12:01 AM Monday morning.
In an order denying the Christie administration a stay of the lower court’s marriage equality ruling, the Court posited that the U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning the federal Defense of Marriage Act so “changed the landscape” that the harm to same-sex couples being denied federal benefits was too blatant to ignore:
The State has advanced a number of arguments, but none of them overcome this reality: same-sex couples who cannot marry are not treated equally under the law today. The harm to them is real, not abstract or speculative. [...]
The State identified certain abstract harms… Weighed against them are immediate and concrete violations of plaintiffs’ right to equal protection under the law. Because plaintiffs cannot marry under State law, they and their children are simply not eligible for a host of federal benefits available to same-sex married couples today. [...]
The balance of hardships does not support the motion for a stay.
As ThinkProgress outlined earlier, this outcome is not a final guarantee that the right to marry is a permanent fixture for same-sex couples in New Jersey, but it is incredibly encouraging. Though the Court reserved its right to nullify any marriages that take place until they rule, they have explicitly stated their expectation that the state will lose and marriage equality will prevail.
As of Monday, New Jersey will become the 14th state (plus the District of Columbia and some New Mexico counties) to offer marriage to same-sex couples.
(HT: Kathleen Perrin.)