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Case seeking the right to marry for same-sex couples in New Jersey


In 2002, Lambda Legal filed a historic case seeking marriage equality on behalf of seven New Jersey couples. Our case reached the state supreme court in 2006. The high court ruled unanimously that same-sex couples must be provided all the benefits and responsibilities of marriage, although it declined to mandate that marriage was specifically required, and gave the state legislature 180 days to choose either marriage or an alternate system that would provide equality. The legislature hastily passed a civil union law in December 2006. In December 2008 the Civil Union Review Commission, appointed by the legislature, issued its report documenting how civil unions fall short of providing the court-mandated equality for same-sex couples. In January 2010, days before the legislative session ended, the New Jersey Senate voted on and failed to pass a marriage equality law. On March 18, 2010, Lambda Legal filed a motion asking the New Jersey Supreme Court to intercede and order marriage to secure compliance with its original mandate of equality for the Lewis v. Harris plaintiffs.


In February 2007, New Jersey became the fifth state to provide same-sex couples with marriage or a legal package of rights and responsibilities parallel to marriage, joining California, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont.

Lambda Legal’s Impact

In this important decision, every justice on the state high court said that same-sex couples must receive equal treatment from the government and be given rights and benefits of marriage. It led to the passage of New Jersey’s civil union law. This means that same-sex couples in New Jersey will be extended all of the rights, responsibilities and benefits of marriage, except the profound benefit of the word itself. As a result of our dogged education work across New Jersey, launched by Lambda Legal and expanded by key allies, more voters in the state are in favor of marriage equality and key legislative leaders have promised to push for it as well.