WASHINGTON - Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese made the following statement regarding today's ruling in Lewis v. Harris - a court case in which the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to receive the same state benefits, protections and obligations as opposite-sex married couples. The court ruled that the Legislature must either amend its marriage law to include same-sex couples or provide these benefits, protections and obligations by some other means such as civil unions.
"Today, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples should have the same rights and obligations as heterosexual couples. This is, at its core, a pro-family, pro-equality decision. It is now in the hands of the Legislature to do the right thing, and recognize that all New Jersey families should have the protections that only marriage provides.-
"We congratulate and commend the work of Lambda Legal and the plaintiff couples who had the courage and resolve to bring this case forward.
"This decision recognizes that New Jersey's constitution protects all families. The Legislature should not go down the path of separate but equal, but rather should embrace marriage equality. We commend Garden State Equality and will work with them and other allies to make this a reality.
"The New Jersey decision only involves the protection and benefits of civil marriage - not religious ceremonies. This case does not affect religious institutions' freedom to decide if they want to honor and recognize same-sex unions.
"Although this case is a major step forward in ending discrimination, a federal law, the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, denies same-sex couples over 1,000 protections, and puts these couples at risk that they will not be recognized as families when they cross state lines.
"Our great country has a tradition of expanding legal protections, as was done for voting rights and other civil rights protections. Combating discrimination of all kinds is a fundamental American value. The Human Rights Campaign applauds this decision."
Lambda Legal filed this case in 2002 on behalf of seven same-sex couples who were denied marriage licenses. In November 2003, the trial court ruled against the plaintiffs, and on June 14, 2005, the intermediate appellate court upheld the decision. On Feb. 15, 2006, the New Jersey Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case. Today, all seven justices concluded that same-sex couples were entitled to the equal benefits and protections of marriage. Three of those seven went further and concluded that the New Jersey Constitution requires full marriage equality.
The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against GLBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.
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