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NJ Supreme Court rules that gay couples have same marriage rights as heterosexual couples under the state constitution

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Published: Wednesday October 25, 2006

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Gay couples have the same marriage rights as heterosexual couples under the New Jersey state constitution, New Jersey's state Supreme Court ruled today.

The Court stopped short of fully approving same-sex marriage, but gave lawmakers six months to act. The legislature must now grant either civil unions or marriage rights to same-sex couples.

The majority opinion states "that denying the rights and benefits to committed same-sex couples that are statutorily given to their heterosexual counterparts violates the equal protection guarantee of Article I, Paragraph 1 of the New Jersey Constitution."

"To comply with the equal protection guarantee of Article I, Paragraph 1 of the New Jersey Constitution, the State must provide to committed same-sex couples, on equal terms, the full 65 rights and benefits enjoyed by heterosexual married couples," the ruling said.

"The State can fulfill that constitutional requirement in one of two ways," the ruling continued. "It can either amend the marriage statutes to include same-sex couples or enact a parallel statutory structure by another name, in which same-sex couples would not only enjoy the rights and benefits, but also bear the burdens and obligations of civil marriage."

"If the State proceeds with a parallel scheme, it cannot make entry into a same-sex civil union any more difficult than it is for heterosexual couples to enter the state of marriage," the ruling continued. "It may, however, regulate that scheme similarly to marriage and, for instance, restrict civil unions based on age and consanguinity and prohibit polygamous relationships."

A pdf file of the Court's 90 page opinion can be read at this link.