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Big News

By Matthew Yglesias

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Just in time for a big pre-election brou-ha-ha the New Jersey Supreme Court hands down a ruling:

The State Supreme Court in New Jersey said today that under equal protection guarantees of the state constitution, same-sex couples “must be afforded on equal terms the same rights and benefits enjoyed by opposite-sex couples under the civil marriage statutes.”

But it said that whether that status is called marriage or something else “is a matter left to the democratic process.”

That seems like a reasonable conclusion to me. At any rate, when this went down in Massachusetts it sparked both a lot of concern that the ruling would be bad for the Democrats’ electoral fortunes, but also a lot of much stronger claims about litigation being somehow a bad path for the gay rights movement. The latter conclusion certainly would be convenient for Democratic Party political operatives, but I see very little evidence for it and the fact that we’re seeing further expansions of gay rights seems to indicate that the obvious answer is the correct one — social movements like to use the courts to advance their agenda because it’s a method that works. The political process, fundamentally, doesn’t like to address novel sorts of disputes because it unsettles established patterns and makes trouble for everyone — it takes a lawsuit or two to set things in motion.

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