Congratulations New Jersey!

October 21, 2013

I support Marriage Equality and would be happy no matter how it came about – in New Mexico it seems to be percolating up from the county level – but I find the legal reasoning involved in the New Jersey decision especially interesting. As I suspected, the overruling of the Federal sections of DOMA has totally undercut the position of those Americans who’ve been on the fence, hoping to give same sex couples “equal rights” without the word “marriage.” New Jersey had civil unions which were required, by a 2006 decision of the state Supreme Court, to convey the same benefits as marriages. Now the courts might have chosen to apply this in a conservative manner, meaning only something like “benefits within the power of the State to give,” but instead they took a more pragmatic view: Federal benefits are an important part of what it means to be married in today’s world, and with a whole batch of them now being offered to same-sex couples as long as they have the “married” label, there is no way civil unions can be considered equal.

We’ll see how other “civil union” states react. Meanwhile there’s apparently going to be a statewide decision soon in New Mexico… And eventually there are going to be cases where same-sex couples from equal-marriage states move to other places and exercise Federal rights alongside of neighbors who don’t have them… Legal complications never end, which I guess is why there’s always a market for lawyers…

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