Wednesday, October 25, 2006

My Current and Tom's Home State Does Good

by Ken Houghton

Via Duncan, sense prevails (90-page PDF):
Denying committed same-sex couples the financial and social benefits and privileges given to their married heterosexual counterparts bears no substantial relationship to a legitimate governmental purpose.

A rose is a rose is not-necessarily-a-rose:
Despite the rich diversity of this State, the tolerance and goodness of its people, and the many recent advances made by gays and lesbians toward achieving social acceptance and equality under the law, the Court cannot find that the right to same-sex marriage is a fundamental right under our constitution.

But separate is not yet equal:
The Domestic Partnership Act has failed to bridge the inequality gap between committed same-sex couples and married opposite-sex couples. Significantly, the economic and financial inequities that are borne by same-sex domestic partners are also borne by their children. Further, even though same-sex couples are provided fewer benefits and rights by the Act, they are subject to more stringent requirements to enter into a domestic partnership than opposite-sex couples entering a marriage.

Cue Peter Cook, the Impressive Clergyman:
[T]he issue is not about the transformation of the traditional definition of marriage, but about the unequal dispensation of benefits and privileges to one of two similarly situated classes of people.

The burden is on the oppressor to justify oppression:
[T]he State has not articulated any legitimate public need for depriving committed same-sex couples of the host of benefits and privileges that are afforded to married heterosexual couples. There is, on the one hand, no rational basis for giving gays and lesbians full civil rights as individuals while, on the other hand, giving them an incomplete set of rights when they enter into committed samesex relationships. To the extent that families are strengthened by encouraging monogamous relationships, whether heterosexual or homosexual, the Court cannot discern a public need that would justify the legal disabilities that now afflict same-sex domestic partnerships.

New Jersey still believes its Constitution protects all of its people:
Our current laws concerning same-sex couples are more in line with those of Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut than the majority of other states. Equality of treatment is a dominant theme of our laws and a central guarantee of our State Constitution. This is fitting for a state with so diverse a population. Article I, Paragraph 1 protects not only the rights of the majority but also the rights of the disfavored and the disadvantaged; they too are promised a fair opportunity for pursuing and obtaining safety and happiness."

It is left to the legislature to determine if a marriage of true minds may be called a marriage, but it must be able to look and act as if it were one:
The Legislature could simply amend the marriage statutes to include same-sex couples, or it could create a separate statutory structure, such as a civil union. Because this State has no experience with a civil union construct, the Court will not speculate that identical schemes offering equal rights and benefits would create a distinction that would offend Article I, Paragraph 1, and will not presume that a difference in name is of constitutional magnitude. New language is developing to describe new social and familial relationships, and in time will find a place in our common vocabulary. However the Legislature may act, same-sex couples will be free to call their relationships by the name they choose and to sanctify their relationships in religious ceremonies in houses of worship.

Compliance has a reasonable timeframe:
To bring the State into compliance with Article I, Paragraph 1 so that plaintiffs can exercise their full constitutional rights, the Legislature must either amend the marriage statutes or enact an appropriate statutory structure within 180 days of the date of this decision.
I thought Tom was from Delaware. Or was it just that he went to college in Delaware?
College. Born in Summit, NJ—a few towns further out from New York than where I am now (i.e., he comes from a better area).

See this post.
Since I'm in an unaccountably good mood despite having had six years' work go for naught today, and being tired and thirsty and waiting for a late plane in Detroit, I'll say you're both right.

I did go to college in Delaware. And high school, and grade school, and kindergarten, too. I am a North Jersey native, however.
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