Coalition of Civil Rights Groups File Brief in Support of Marriage Equality

July 10, 2013

ACLU-NJ files amicus brief on behalf of cross-section of groups in wake of historic DOMA decision

NEWARK – The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey (ACLU-NJ) filed an amicus brief today in support of a summary judgment in the case Garden State Equality, et. al v. Dow, et. al. The brief was filed in Superior Court in Mercer County on behalf of several organizations that represent a diverse cross-section of New Jersey residents.

“The disparity between civil unions and marriage has now become even more stark and abundantly clear in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic decision two weeks ago,” said Ed Barocas, ACLU-NJ legal director. “In New Jersey, support for marriage equality is stronger than ever and has transcended racial and ethnic lines.”

The brief was filed on behalf the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Hispanic Bar Association, Garden State Bar Association, National Organization of Women for New Jersey, and Legal Momentum.

“This is not just a gay and lesbian rights issue, but a civil rights issue,” said Steve G. Hockaday, President-Elect of the Garden State Bar Association, which assists African-Americans and other ethnic minorities in becoming an effective part of the judicial and legal systems. “An entire class of citizens is being denied rights simply because of who they are. Our generation, like those before us, must fight for those rights and continue to uproot discrimination of any form wherever it may exist.”

Last week Lambda Legal filed a motion for summary judgment on behalf of six same-sex couples and Garden State Equality. The lawsuit was originally filed in June 2011 and argues that the civil union law violates the New Jersey Constitution and the Fourteenth Amendment of the federal Constitution by failing to provide equal rights and benefits as those of heterosexual married couples, as required by a 2006 New Jersey Supreme Court decision.

On June 26, 2013, the United States Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, giving access to hundreds of federal rights and benefits to same-sex couples legally married under their states’ marriage laws. However, because New Jersey denies same-sex couples the right to marriage, those couples are being denied those federal rights and benefits. New Jersey’s civil union law, therefore, is unequal to marriage and thus violates the state and federal constitutions.

Ronald K. Chen, acting dean of Rutgers Law School – Newark, is serving as counsel on behalf of the amici organizations.

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