Equal Rights In Line with Voters, Radicals Go Ballistic

The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples are entitled to the same rights, benefits, and obligations as heterosexual couples, and the Far Right went ballistic. Literally. Just read this quote from Matt Daniels of the Alliance for Marriage: "They are holding a gun to the head of the legislature of New Jersey and saying pick between two bullets -- one that allows civil unions and one that allows marriage."

This is the extreme rhetoric of a sinking ship. Two people of the same-sex are in love and want to protect their relationship and their children from discrimination, and our enemies compare this to murder.

The truth is that the New Jersey decision is perfectly in line with the will of the people of New Jersey. The state has a long tradition of being inclusive and fair-minded. It has a civil rights law barring discrimination based on sexual orientation and it has a strong hate crimes law. The legislature had already approved a statewide domestic partnership law with little to no opposition. And, recent polling data also shows that 50% of New Jerseyans support marriage equality and, by a margin of 2 to 1, they support some sort of relationship recognition such as civil unions.

So, when anti-gay activists cry foul, it's hard to understand what they are complaining about. The Court was perfectly in line with: previous actions by the state legislature; the position of the governor - who prefers civil unions but says he'll sign a marriage law; and, the values of the state's fair-minded citizens.

These "activist" judges were actually carefully interpreting the state constitution, which protects gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender citizens in the same way it protects straight New Jerseyans. Nothing more, nothing less.

What is interesting, however, is that the decision came down 7-0 for the plaintiffs. Four judges voted for some sort of equal benefits and protections, but the remaining three argued that only marriage would be a fair remedy under the state constitution. (Interestingly, the three Justices supporting full marriage were appointed by a Republican governor.) No judge said that the couples weren't entitled to the legal benefits, protections, and obligations of a recognized union. That is incredible progress.

The New Jersey decision will have no impact on other states or on Federal law. The so-called Defense of Marriage Act exempts other states from recognizing same-sex marriages.

It's time to stop the hateful, violent rhetoric, and look at the facts. The New Jersey Supreme Court didn't point a gun at the legislature. They took a legal softball and hit a home run. And the winners in this inning were not just the approximately 20,000 same-sex couples and their estimated 7,000 children, but all New Jersey families.