- Same-Sex Marriage
The ACLU-NJ participated in a case challenging the denial of marriage licenses for seven same-sex couples in New Jersey. The suit contends that the denial of the licenses based upon the sexes of the partners violates the guarantees of equal protection and privacy embodied in the NJ Constitution. The New Jersey Supreme Court held that the couples are entitled to the rights and privileges of marriage but not the title of marriage.
- Birth Certificates
In 2005, the ACLU-NJ successfully obtained a court order granting a lesbian couple the right to have both of their names listed on their child's birth certificate, pursuant to New Jersey's artificial insemination statute. The artificial insemination statute protects a child's relationship to a non-biological parent who consents to his spouse's artificial insemination. This was the first known order of its type in the State of New Jersey. The court accepted the ACLU-NJ's argument that, since the statute seeks to ensure the best interests of children, it must be read in a manner consistent with that purpose. Since the couple had met every indicia of commitment contemplated under the statute, including a marriage in Canada, there would be no purpose served in denying the non-biological lesbian partner the same parent-child status to which a male heterosexual and his non-biological child (via his wife's artificial insemination) would be entitled.
- Domestic Partnership
The ACLU-NJ played a key role in drafting and lobbying for the passage of New Jersey's Domestic Partnership Act, signed into law in January 2004, which grants certain rights to same sex couples in domestic partnerships including hospital visitation rights, insurance and other benefits for partners of state employees, and state tax benefits for inheritance.
The ACLU-NJ represented members of Rutgers University faculty challenging the denial of health benefits to Rutgers University's lesbian and gay faculty members for their life partners. The passage of New Jersey's Domestic Partnership Act - and now the Civil Unions Bill - resolved most of the claims.
In 1997, the ACLU-NJ participated in a case concerning whether the non-biological parent in a same sex relationship may seek visitation with, or joint legal custody of, a child born during the relationship. We argued that the standard to be used to determine both visitation and custody by an individual who stands in the shoes of a parent is the "best interests of the child". In 2000, the Court agreed, recognizing the non-biological parent is nevertheless a "psychological parent."
- Same Sex Parent Adoptions
In 1997, the ACLU-NJ won a lawsuit challenging the denial of two same sex parents to mutually adopt children. Jon Holden & Michael Galluccio sought to mutually adopt their son, a two year old HIV+ child they had taken in for foster care. State officials had prohibited the adoption, saying the law did not allow unmarried couples to adopt a child in a single proceeding, although they could go through the process twice. A Bergen County judge ruled favorably, allowing the joint adoption because it was in the best interest of the child.
Discrimination at School
- I ♥ Lesbians
The ACLU-NJ protected the free speech and equal protection rights of an 11th-grade student who had been disciplined for wearing a T-shirt that expressed affection for lesbians. Students at the school often wore T-shirts that said things like "I ♥ Boys in Uniform." But when a lesbian student wore her "I ♥ Lesbians" T-shirt, school administrators ordered her to change the T-shirt or return home. She complained about the unequal treatment, but was still required to change. On June 2, 2006, the ACLU-NJ sent a letter to school administrators explaining that their actions were violating Geissel's rights to free expression and right to be free from discrimination, and we threatened to file a lawsuit. Within a week, the ACLU-NJ was pleased to learn from the school district that the student would be able to wear her T-shirt without fear of discipline.
- High School "Best Couple"
In 2004, the ACLU-NJ advocated for the right to have a same-sex couple declared "Best Couple" and to have the couple's award listed in the high school yearbook along with other Senior Superlative awards. The couple had been informed that, while they could appear on the ballot, they would not be declared Best Couple even if they receive the most votes. After receiving a demand letter from the ACLU-NJ explaining that such a position would violate the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination and the constitutional right of those students to equal treatment, the school principal relented.
- Safe Schools
In 2002, New Jersey passed a law providing protection to children who are victims of bullying at school. The ACLU-NJ has been involved in a variety of activities to educate school personnel and the public about this law and help ensure that students are protected from bullies. We are currently planning a training course for lawyers who will represent families of students when schools fail to give protection from bullying.
Discrimination by Private Organizations or Businesses
- Gay Scout Leaders Excluded
The ACLU-NJ participated in support of James Dale who, after being dismissed as scout leader, challenged the Boy Scouts' policy of excluding gay men and youths from membership as a violation of New Jersey's Law Against Discrimination (LAD). We argued that the Boy Scouts are a public accommodation and that New Jersey's LAD requires the organization to treat all individuals equally, without regard to sexual orientation. In 1998 the Appellate Division issued a decision holding that the Boy Scouts are a public accommodation and their policy of excluding gay members violates the LAD. The court also rejected the Boy Scouts' claim that applying the LAD to them violates their First Amendment right to free association. The Boy Scouts appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in their favor in June 2000.
- Housing Discrimination
In 1999, Zion Towers in Newark sought to evict Lorrie Jenkins on the ground that she had an "unauthorized occupant" living with her in her apartment. The occupant was Ms. Jenkins' lesbian partner, whom the landlord refused to add to the lease because they were not married. The ACLU-NJ argued that the landlord's action violated New Jersey's Law Against Discrimination. After receiving the ACLU-NJ's brief, the housing authority agreed not to evict Ms. Jenkins.
- Dental Care Denied
In 1999, the ACLU-NJ represented three HIV-positive individuals who were denied dental care by Shelton Dental Services in Newark on the basis of their medical condition. We argued that to deny individuals dental care based solely on their HIV status violates state and federal laws against discrimination. In addition, Shelton Dental Services revealed the HIV status of one of our plaintiffs in violation of New Jersey's HIV Confidentiality statute. We settled the suit, with compensation for the plaintiffs.