Originally published on Advocate.com November 06 2003 1:00 AM ET
A New Jersey trial-level court on Wednesday ruled against legalizing same-sex marriage, moving the case forward to the state's supreme court. "We're not surprised by this lower-court ruling," said David Buckel, a senior staff attorney at Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund and lead attorney on the lawsuit. "More than anything, this ruling propels us forward to higher courts where both sides have always known it will be decided. Today's ruling speeds the clock up toward the day lesbian and gay couples in New Jersey can seek the protections they need for their families from the state's high court."
Lambda filed the lawsuit against the state of New Jersey in June 2002 on behalf of seven same-sex couples seeking full marriage rights. The lawsuit is based solely on the New Jersey constitution. Therefore, the New Jersey supreme court will have the last word in the case. Lambda said it is appealing Tuesday's ruling, which will be filed in the next several weeks.
"We want to resolve this case because families in New Jersey badly need and deserve the protections marriage provides," Buckel said. "Marriage is the legal safety net that our society provides to support committed couples, and same-sex partners need the rights and responsibilities that come with it just as much as heterosexual couples."
The seven plaintiff couples in the case have been together between 10 and 32 years. Five of the seven couples have children. All of them want and need the legal security that comes with marriage but has been denied to them. "In civil rights movements in this country, seeking freedom has always been on a long road--and the struggle for marriage is no different," Buckel said. "But this is familiar territory for us. Just this summer Lambda Legal won a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case striking down Texas's sodomy law and every law like it in the nation--but we saw several lower-court losses along the way. One day we will win the freedom to marry because we're fighting for our families."