High court ruling on same-sex marriage energizes state efforts

NEW YORK Wed Jul 3, 2013 4:01pm EDT

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Gay rights activists asked a New Jersey judge on Wednesday to declare same-sex marriage legal in the state, citing last week's Supreme Court ruling striking down the federal law defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

Litigation has also been filed in other states since the Supreme Court extended federal benefits to married same-sex couples in the Windsor decision.

Hayley Gorenberg, a lawyer for Lambda Legal which represents several same-sex couples in a lawsuit against New Jersey, said the U.S. high court's decision last week in Windsor v. U.S. made it "crystal clear" the state's law allowing civil unions for gay couples does not provide equal rights.

"By denying same-sex couples equal federal rights ... the New Jersey statutory scheme shows itself to be unjustifiable discrimination," a motion for summary judgment filed Wednesday in Mercer County Superior Court said.

The state will have a month to reply to the motion and arguments would be scheduled for mid-August. A spokesman for the attorney general declined to comment on pending litigation.

Elsewhere, plaintiffs in two cases in New Mexico have petitioned that state's supreme court to take up the issue. Lawyers for plaintiffs in two other lawsuits in Illinois plan to file motions based on Windsor soon.

In Michigan, a federal judge on Tuesday cited the Windsor case in allowing a trial on a challenge to the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

The U.S. Supreme Court case involved a lesbian widow from New York, Edith Windsor, who paid higher estate taxes after her wife died in 2009 because their marriage was not recognized by the federal government under the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

In a 5-4 ruling, the court found that DOMA violated the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equal protection. In a second case, it paved the way for legalizing same-sex marriage in California.

But the justices stopped short of declaring a nationwide right to same-sex marriage, and both proponents and opponents have vowed to continue the fight state by state.

In 2006, New Jersey's highest court ruled that the state constitution guaranteed equal rights for same-sex and heterosexual couples. The state legislature then passed a law creating civil unions as a way to ensure same-sex couples would have equal rights without changing the definition of marriage.

Two years ago, Garden State Equality, an organization that advocates for gay rights, and several gay couples sued, arguing the civil union law failed to provide equal rights for same-sex couples, an assertion the state disputed.

With DOMA struck down, Gorenberg said there was no longer any question that civil unions are inequitable, since same-sex New Jersey couples in civil unions remain ineligible for federal benefits even as married same-sex couples in other states will now receive them.

Jordan Lorence, a lawyer with Alliance Defending Freedom, a group opposed to same-sex marriage, said proponents were reading too much into Windsor.

New Jersey is shaping up as a key battleground state as Democrats in the legislature hunt for enough votes to overturn Governor Chris Christie's veto of same-sex marriage legislation last year.

Christie, a Republican running for re-election this fall, has faced criticism from his Democratic opponent over the veto.

Same-sex marriage is legal in 13 states and the District of Columbia. Court challenges are pending in at least eight states that do not allow the unions, according to James Esseks, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union's LGBT Project.

"With DOMA gone, the disparities between the protections that civil unions provide and the protections that marriage provides are startling in their breadth," he said.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and David Gregorio)

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Comments (2)
1965TBIRD wrote:
Try being responsible for you registered Domestic partner and the IRS slaps you with a $58.986.43 income tax bill on items you and your partner already own. I too am dissatisfied with the rulings as they stand…The are unequal based on the basic facts that items you are to inherit from an Estate is treated as INCOME??? when it is INHERITED it allows the IRS to double and triple tax items that were already in your possession before the death of your registered Domestic partner…$106,800.00 in Social Security Benefits…No death Benefits, and the ability to be buried with his parents …Would have been because he was an Adult Dependent Child with mental retardation..according to Government standards…Of which he was neither…Also all Annuity account I had to withhold 20% each for Taxes plus additional 11% each for income taxes..pay off two mortgages $116,000.00 and $49,689.73 by GMAC who would not even talk to me about the responsibility to pay it off cause my name was not on the title..Also having to sell my home after it was paid off displacing me out of a decent paying job with Costco…and having to move to relocate away from the home I had to sell to satisfy the IRS income tax debt. I received better treatment at Einans Funeral home than the extremely rude customer service at my Credit Union on the same day I paid all expenses at the bank the HELOC, The Car Loan, The Boat Loan, and the credit Union opened the safety Deposit box with out me being present and froze my personal bank accounts so i could not gain acess to my own pay check…Living in Richland WA you are directly surrounded by people who do not care at all about what you are going through…They are Vultures and thieves…and unable to do proper assistance of some one coming into their banking institutions requesting to close out accounts after some one has died…Making the check out at Einans Funeral home for $8,000.00 and then having to face the bank and make out over $132,894.37 in checks out of David Life insurance money…I can easily say Einans is a decent respectful funeral home and Hapo Credit Union is Sheisters from the word go. I will take the Safety Deposit box key and make it into a Yellow necklace like the boy on the movie Louder and Louder with Sandra Bulloc….Looking to the people I had done over 23 years of business with and relied upon up until my world fell apart was really an eye opener…Thank god I sponsored the Equality symbol on my facebook page..and helped Edie Windsor get recognized right away. Now we must focus upon getting more basic right to be placed into law so we have the opportunity to heal the Financial status of the LGBTQ community from being ripped off by DOMA . After reconciling $2.21 million dollars for Davids care at the University of WA Hospital I think I am now pretty well versed in how the laws should be changed ..needless to sat being ripped off by DOMA.

Jul 03, 2013 12:28am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Wisdomspeak1 wrote:
Hey Homosexuals, you have turned God into your jilted jealous Lover, as a result, He may select you RIGHT NOW to be chosen! Chosen to be TAKEN, then you will be found NO MORE! Before it is too late, ask Jesus to save you from HIM! From God’s wrath to come! Jesus is the ONLY ONE who knows how to appease God and remove His indignation that’s upon YOU RIGHT NOW!!!

(correction ~ “fiery indignation” according to Hebrews 10:27)

Jul 06, 2013 7:03pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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