The question this weekend was How will Marriage Equality arrive first in NJ? Of the 19 votes cast, the majority of respondents (10 votes) said “through a NJ Supreme Court ruling.” Three respondents chose through “NJ Legislature’s override of Christie’s veto.” Two respondents each voted for the “US Supreme Court,” a “voter referendum,” and “some other venue.”
The fact that a majority of poll respondents believe we will get Marriage Equality through a NJ Supreme Court ruling highlights the importance of the nomination process underway. Of the current five justices two are Democrats (Chief Justice Stuart Rabner and Justice Barry Albin), two are Republican (Justices Helen Hoens and Anne Patterson) and one is Independent/Republican (Justice Jaynee LaVecchia). Governor Christie has already nominated out gay Bruce Harris, who it is said will recuse himself on marriage equality if he receives Senate confirmation. Governor Christie has yet to nominate a second candidate, and it seems that if Christie has his way the nominee will not support marriage equality. We may be headed toward a Supreme Court of seven members with only two Democrats.
In 2006 the court unanimously agreed that the state marriage law was unconstitutional with respect to the equal protection of same sex couples. Three Democratic justices argued that the only constitutional remedy was an amendment of state marriage law to include same-sex couples, but none of these justices remain on the bench. Four justices, the majority, ruled that the legislature could either amend marriage laws to allow ME or create civil unions. Two of these justices who were comfortable with civil unions are still on the bench (Justices Rabner and LaVecchia), and the other two have left.
There has been substantial change in the public’s attitude toward ME since 2006, and what the court might decide is anyone’s guess. To review the poll and comments go here, or for more information on the current Supreme Court go here.