The New Jersey Supreme Court [official website] on Friday ruled [text, PDF] that the state must begin recognizing same-sex marriages. The court declined to issue a stay on a lower court's decision [text, PDF] pending appeal. The lower court ruling found that, in light of US v. Windsor [SCOTUSBlog backgrounder; JURIST report], the status of civil unions deprive same-sex couples of federal benefits enjoyed by married couples. That ruling was challenged [JURIST report] by Governor Chris Christie [official website], who has argued recognition should be delayed pending a statewide referendum. Chief Justice Rabner rejected the state's claim that it will suffer irreparable harm if the order is allowed to be enforced, finding that no tangible harm can be found. The unanimous court held:
Because, among other reasons, the State has not shown a reasonable probability of success on the merits, the trial court's order directing State officials to permit same-sex couples, who are otherwise eligible, to enter into civil marriage starting on October 21, 2013 remains in effect. The lower court's ruling was allowed to stand, pending a hearing on the merits in January.
The heated debate regarding same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder] is one of the most polarizing [JURIST op-ed] issues currently facing the US legal community....
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