Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund representing New Jersey legislators filed a motion to intervene Monday to defend against a recently filed motion in what seemed to be a long-ago-resolved lawsuit that seeks to force the Legislature to redefine marriage.
The Alliance Defense Fund say that a small group of activists dissatisfied with civil unions implemented by the Legislature in 2007 argue that they will not be satisfied with anything short of redefining marriage for everyone.
"There's more to marriage than just any two people in a committed relationship," said Alliance Defense Fund's Senior Legal Counsel Austin R. Nimocks. "At this time in history, we should be strengthening marriage, not tearing it down. Instead, activists are seeking to redefine marriage for all New Jersey citizens by resurrecting an already-resolved, three-year-old lawsuit with the goal of forcing legislators to redefine marriage against their will. This renewed attack utterly dispels the myth that civil unions will appease such activists. Instead, they seek to use them as a legal springboard to redefine marriage."
Alliance Defense Fund attorneys represent Senator Gerald Cardinale ( R ), Senator Anthony R. Bucco ( R ), and Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll ( R ) in their motion to intervene, filed with the New Jersey Supreme Court.
"After failing to achieve their goals in the Legislature, plaintiffs return to this court, again seeking a judicial solution to a legislative issue," states the ADF brief filed on behalf of the legislators. "It is that proposed remedy - the attempt to usurp legislative authority and compel legislative action - which gives rise to Proposed Intervenors' interests in this case."
The new motion in Lewis v. Harris, filed by attorneys with Lambda Legal, seeks to resurrect a case already decided by the New Jersey Supreme Court in October 2006. In that decision, the court gave the Legislature the option to "either amend the marriage statutes to include same-sex couples or enact a parallel statutory structure by another name, in which same-sex couples would not only enjoy the rights and benefits, but also bear the burdens and obligations of civil marriage."
In December 2006, legislators complied with the order by choosing the latter option and enacting the Civil Union Act, which became effective in February 2007.
Back on March 18, Lambda Legal returned to the New Jersey Supreme Court, filing a motion seeking marriage equality on behalf of the plaintiffs in the original Lewis v. Harris lawsuit.
"The New Jersey Supreme Court ordered equality for same-sex couples when it decided our marriage lawsuit in 2006, and the legislature has failed to meet that crystal-clear obligation," said Hayley Gorenberg, Deputy Legal Director at Lambda Legal. "Civil unions are a failed legislative experiment in providing equality in New Jersey-marriage equality is the only solution."
Lambda Legal, with pro bono co-counsel from the Gibbons firm, including partner Lawrence Lustberg, filed a Motion in Aid of Litigants' Rights arguing that the civil union remedy enacted by the legislature has not fulfilled the Constitution's guarantee of equality promised in the Court's 2006 ruling.
"Because the legislature ignored the extensive research and unanimous conclusion of its own Civil Union Review Commission and the overwhelming evidence presented in hours of legislative testimony, we must go back to court," said Gorenberg.
When the Lewis v. Harris case was decided, two other states, Connecticut and Vermont, had civil union laws. Since then both states have thrown over those laws as unequal — one by court action and one by legislative action — and same-sex couples now have the right to marry there. Same-sex couples can also marry in Massachusetts, Iowa, New Hampshire, the District of Columbia, and several foreign countries.
Lambda Legal filed Lewis v. Harris in June 2002 on behalf of seven same-sex couples seeking the right to marry. The New Jersey Supreme Court issued its ruling on October 25, 2006, unanimously agreeing that it is unconstitutional to give same-sex couples lesser rights than different-sex couples, but leaving the remedy to reach equality up to the legislature. In December 2006 the New Jersey Legislature hastily enacted a civil union law. In December 2008 the Civil Union Review Commission, appointed by the legislature, issued its report documenting how civil unions fall short of the court-mandated equality for same-sex couples. Following a hard -fought campaign led by Garden State Equality, the New Jersey Senate voted on and failed to pass a marriage equality law days before the legislative session ended this January.
— ANDY LAGOMARSINO, NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM