Tag Archive: DOMA

Because Equality Strengthens All of Us

promoted by Rosi

“Every single American — gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, transgender — every single American deserves to be treated equally in the eyes of the law and in the eyes of our society. It’s a pretty simple proposition.” – President Barack Obama

I believe in equal rights, and I want to help get us there.

On the issue of marriage, I want you to know where I stand. And I want the people of the 16th Legislative District to know that I intend to represent all of them in the Assembly, not only the couples and families whose rights the state more fully recognizes.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court Struck down DOMA and delivered a historic victory in the fight for equal rights for the LGBT community. Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, said that DOMA wrote inequality into federal law. And that's a little like where we are now in New Jersey. Our civil union law, which was supposed to give same sex couples the same rights and protections as heterosexual couples, doesn't deliver. This week, oral arguments will be heard in Superior Court in Trenton challenging that law. Change is coming. And I'm dedicated to it.

The false arguments put up by marriage equality opponents are insulting to the intelligence and demeaning to the committed individuals who simply want the opportunity their straight friends have: to be happy with their loved one, and to raise their families in peace. This separate and unequal treatment must end.

Civil unions do not afford same sex couples the same rights and privileges as married couples. That must change, not only for them, but also for their children and families. And for the rest of us; equality strengthens all of us. Some of our politicians have confused their priorities. Instead of spending their time and energy – and public resources – standing in the way of some of our couples and families, our elected leaders should be working for New Jersey's economic recovery so people can afford to stay in their home, plan for retirement and have a good school to which they can send their kids.

While my GOP opponents, Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli and Assemblywoman Donna Simon, voted against Marriage Equality, I will continue to stand with the true leaders in Trenton, and the people of LD16 and throughout New Jersey as we fight for equal rights for all of our state’s residents regardless of who they choose to love.

To keep in touch, you can find me here: Facebookweb, & Twitter: @mariecorfield

The State Responds With Scattershot Approach Against Marriage Equality

In a court filing in the ongoing NJ legal battle for marriage equality the State responded Friday with a scattershot approach – shooting bullets in different directions hoping that one or more would hit the mark. The filing also requests the court “set a new fact and expert discovery schedule so that it has the record it views as necessary.” Such, of course, would send the case back to where it was before – a tedious discovery process which GSE’s lawyers, Larry Lustberg (Gibbons PC) and Hayley Gorenberg (Lambda Legal Defense), argue is unnecessary.

In 2006 in Lewis v. Harris New Jersey’s highest court ruled that gay couples are entitled to the same legal rights and financial benefits as heterosexual couples.

Then one month ago Garden State Equality (GSE) sought from the Mercer County court a Summary Judgment. GSE argued that the U.S. Supreme Court DOMA decision, known as Windsor, resulted in the clearest possible violation of Lewis v. Harris and of the New Jersey constitutional guarantee upon which it rests. “By relegating same-sex couples in New Jersey to civil union, the State denies them equal rights and benefits.”

Oddly enough the State’s cover letter for this August 2 filing to the court ends with:

“Sincerely yours,

Jeffrey S. Chiesa

Attorney General of New Jersey”

And then is signed by a Deputy Attorney General.  Read into it what you will – carelessness, some legal requirement, or a hidden message.

By next Friday GSE lawyers must respond to the State’s filing. On the the following Thursday, August 15, Mercer County Assignment Judge Mary Jacobson will hear oral arguments. If all goes well, shortly afterward New Jersey will join those states which honor marriage equality.

Some of the key arguments the State uses in its request to deny the Summary Judgment appear below the fold.


What’s next after Windsor?

Today at 11:30 AM, Garden State Equality is hosting a rally at the statehouse. Following that rally, GSE, the ACLU of New Jersey, and Lambda Legal will hold a press conference at which they will discuss their response to yesterday’s landmark U.S. Supreme Court Decision striking down section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act. Here’s what to expect—or at least, what I would expect.

States With Civil Unions Are Depriving Gay Couples Of Federal Marriage Benefits

promoted by Rosi

With section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) invalidated, civil unions, once a cup half full, are now a cup half empty.

On Wednesday the U. S. Supreme Court ruled as unconstitutional the section of DOMA that defined marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman for federal legal purposes.  This means that married same-sex couples may now access the more than 1,100 federal benefits and protections that DOMA previously denied them.

The federal benefits of marriage are substantial, including “access to Social Security survivors’ benefits; the option to use family medical leave to care for a spouse; the opportunity to sponsor a foreign-born spouse for citizenship; and access to veterans’ spousal benefits,” according to Lambda Legal’s fact sheet about the DOMA decision.

PHOTOS – Here’s What We Saw Today: At the U.S. Supreme Court Marriage Decisions

I was in front of the U.S. Supreme Court this morning, when the landmark decisions on marriage came down. Along with several thousand other people, so many of them young; marrying age. Jubilant. I wish Chris Christie could have seen it. Few things are as refreshing to the soul as what I saw today.

Good analysis in earlier diaries today from Scott Weingart and Bill Orr with more Jersey-context from nathanrudy. Considerable raw data and legal analysis at SCOTUSblog.

A few things about the pictures below. I witnessed two marriage proposals, one pictured below. After the decision several important people drifted through the crowd. I’ll have video later today of one – a civil rights beacon you’ll know – giving a shout out to New Jersey. Another’s pictured below; David Boies, who joined with his Bush v. Gore opposing counsel, Ted Olsen, in the challenge to Perry v. Schwarzenegger, the Prop 8 case. The red sign below thanks Ted (Olsen) and David (Boies). Thats Boies in red tie, in the 2-shot with Joey Novick, the lawyer and marriage advocate I live with, who pretty much idolizes him.  

Below the fold, a few of the little miracles I witnessed today.

The road ahead of us

Today, ten years to the day after its landmark decision striking down Texas’s sodomy law in Lawrence v. Texas, the United States Supreme Court has held Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. In an opinion authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court held that the federal government may not refuse to recognize a marriage that is permitted under state law simply because the marriage happens to be between two people of the same sex.

However, the court did not decide a companion case on the constitutionality of California’s proposition 8, and thus did not decide whether states may exclude same-sex couples from marriage.

We have won a major victory. Married same-sex couples in the 13 states-plus-DC that recognize marriage equality now enjoy all of the rights of their opposite-sex married neighbors. But the fight to win marriage equality for all same-sex couples in this country is not over. And New Jersey is likely the next battlefield.

New Jersey does not allow same-sex couples to marry. Although they may not marry, they may enter into civil unions, which afford the same rights and benefits of marriage-under state law, that is. It is not clear whether civil union partners in New Jersey will reap the benefits of this decision as will same-sex couples whose state affords both the rights and the label of “marriage.”

In the Lewis v. Harris decision that led the legislature to pass the civil union law, the New Jersey Supreme Court held that same-sex couples must be afforded the same set of rights and benefits afforded to married couples in New Jersey. Back in 2006, “marriage” was merely a word, and “civil union” was a badge of inferiority. But today, the difference between “marriage” and “civil unions” may also include some of the 1,138 (or more) benefits and burdens federal law conditions on marriage. Arguably, because separate state-law status now means unequal federal-law treatment, New Jersey’s civil union law now runs afoul of the State Supreme Court’s deicison in Lewis. And the possibility that New Jerseyans will be denied a host of substantive federal rights over a simple word represents a compelling argument to politicians in this state to upgrade civil unions to marriage without delay.

The importance of these decisions and of the upcoming fight in New Jersey extends beyond New Jersey’s borders. Someday, hopefully less than ten years from now, the Supreme Court will extend the rationale of Loving v. Virginia, Lawrence v. Texas, and United States v. Windsor to its logical conclusion, and hold that states may not refuse the benefits, the burdens, and the label of marriage to two people who wish to marry simply because they are both male or both female. The Court’s decision to “punt” in the Prop 8 case may have been motivated in part by a fear of getting too far ahead of the country on such a contentious issue. We must lay the foundation for nationwide legal victory with legal and political victories in the states. The road from Lawrence to Windsor wound through chambers in Concord and Providence, courthouses in Des Moines and Hartford, and polling places in Portland and Pullman. The road from today’s decision to marriage equality nationwide will follow a similar route, but through places like Springfield, Salem, and Trenton.

SCOTUS Rules On Marriage Equality…Q.E.D.

 Note: This a corrected version.

As a child studying geometry, after proving a theorem, you entered the initials Q.E.D. – a Latin affirmation that you have made your case. In 1903 the artist Gertrude Stein wrote a novel called Q.E.D. affirming a romantic lesbian relationship. 110 years later the U. S. Supreme Court added its own favorable Q.E.D.

Today’s excellent news is that the Court has struck down (5 to 4) Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which banned federal benefits for same-sex couples. This ruling places increased pressure on us in New Jersey to enact Marriage Equality (M. E.)

As the N. Y. Times points out, “Whether gay couples actually get those benefits would depend on where they live – and how vigorously President Obama seeks to change the legal language that determines whether a couple is married in the eyes of the federal government.”

  •   Obstacle # 1: We live in a state which does not permit same-sex marriage.

  •   Obstacle #2: Agencies like the  I.R.S. and the Social Security Administration make their determination by looking to the state where a couple lives. Even with DOMA overturned, those agencies might, until their language is changed, deny benefits to gay couples who live in one of the 38 states that do not allow same-sex marriage.

    As the N. Y. Times explains, In a second decision, the court declined to say whether there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. Instead, the justices said that a case concerning California’s ban on same-sex marriage, Proposition 8, was not properly before them. The ruling leaves in place laws banning same-sex marriage around the nation. Such should clear the way for same-sex marriages in California.

    So with DOMA defeated we have incentive, justification and support to pursue our own Marriage Equality. How long will it take?

    Probably the quickest way to enact M. E. is for both houses of our legislature to over-ride our governor’s M. E. veto. So far it appears that the Legislature lacks the two-thirds votes needed. With today’s ruling, however, pro-active leaders have an opportunity to renew their efforts for the additional necessary votes. Individual legislators now have new cover to proclaim their support. The Legislature has until January 2014 to over-ride the veto.

    Alternately there is still time to include a ballot measure in the November General Election. To do so would require a three-fifths vote by both the Senate and House and would have to be submitted to the Division of Elections by August 4. When vetoing the M. E. bill Christie urged the legislature to allow citizens to vote on the question. As a result Republican legislators would be more likely to join their Democratic counterparts and support putting the measure on the ballot. Two recent polls from Rutgers/Eagleton and Monmouth both indicate 59% of New Jerseyans support M. E. Another from Quinnipiac has 64%.

    How sweet it would be to have Sen. Barbara Buono elected as our next Governor and sign M. E. into law in early 2014.

    It would probably take the longest to gain M. E. through our court system. A suit is currently before the Superior Court.

    So like many Americans, New Jerseyans can pop the cork and celebrate the DOMA and California decisions.  It took a long time for our Supreme Court to make the case, but it has affixed its Q.E.D. Somewhere Gertrude Stein is smiling.  

    SCOTUS rulings: DOMA and Prop 8.  

  • DOMA Struck Down by Supremes, Prop 8 Appeal Nulified

    If you are legally married by a state, regardless of the couple’s gender, the federal government has no right to treat you differently than other legally married people.  That is, as of a half hour ago, the law of the land in the United States of America.  

    SCOTUSBlog is also reporting that Prop 8 in California is invalid and overturned the Ninth Circuit which had heard an appeal.  The reason is that the people appealing the earlier decision that Prop 8 was unconstitutional had no standing.  The only entity that had standing, according to the majority of SCOTUS, was the state of California and it declined to appeal.  

    So, same-sex couples in California can now get legally married and file their federal taxes jointly and get Social Security benefits.

    Would be nice if the same were true in NJ.

    SCOTUS – DOMA & Prop 8: Steal This Avatar


    Make it your Facebook profile pic. Pump it on Twitter. (You following @BlueJersey?) SCOTUS decisions on DOMA & Prop 8 will come any day now – maybe tomorrow.

    Some things to know:

    Monday, June 24th, at 9:30 AM: Garden State Equality hosting lobby day to educate NJ legislators on the impact of the DOMA & Prop 8 decisions. Meet up on the State House steps.

    Be the first to know the SCOTUS decisions Details.

    Today: Steve Kornacki of MSNBC’s UP (and former New Jersey political reporter) is hosting a Google+ Hangout on Air  today 12:15pm on the political implications of the DOMA & Prop 8 decisions.

    Democrats & Republicans: Equality usually emerges as a progressive idea. That’s one reason you saw Democrats recognize gay rights like marriage equality before Republicans. And those folks are still not there. But it’s hard not to have faith in everybody’s ability to celebrate love & commitment. So I say Republicans will get there too. We just don’t want to wait for you. And y’all can make your own avatar.

    Equality Walk: Put some low-dollar power (high-dollar if you’ve got it) power behind GSE’s work. Do it to honor Frank Lautenberg. Here’s the Senator at last year’s Equality Walk, with Loretta Weinberg:

    Frank Lautenberg, Loretta Weinberg

    Yes, I’m a Garden State Equality board member. All in for love & commitment. Questions?

    Show Us Your Papers, Mr. Christie

    When someone is sworn in as New Jersey Governor, they take (and sign) an oath promising to uphold the laws of the United States and those of the state of New Jersey.  They don’t have the option to uphold only the laws that they agree with – they have to uphold all laws.

    Barack Obama faced a conundrum with this during his “evolution” on marriage equality. He was under oath to uphold the misnamed “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) while publicly promoting equal rights for the LGBT community. He correctly chose not to defend DOMA in court (while the Republicans decided to spend $3 million of our tax money to do so), but still did not unilaterally issue an executive order for federal agencies to treat same-sex couples as married. He worked within the system to get the law changed – a process that is still ongoing.

    Chris Christie, on the other hand, flagrantly violates his oath by choosing not to implement the three-year-old medical marijuana law. He has put roadblock after roadblock in front of suffering patients and continues to stonewall on a law, like marriage equality, that the legislature has passed but, contrary to his oath of office, he has personal disagreement with.

    It’s time for Chris Christie to obey the law and be as proactive in establishing dispensaries throughout the state, eliminate the waiting period for patients, and do his with as much vigor as he does in awarding no-bid contracts to his cronies.

    Interesting tidbit: As of this writing, on the NJ Department of State web site are images of all of the signed oaths of office for our governors, dating back to 1790. Conspicuously absent is an oath signed in 2010 by incoming Governor Christie. Is he really governor? Show us your papers, Mr. Christie.