The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled today that the state Constitution entitles same-sex couples to all the legal benefits of marriage, but by another name. The high court adopted an approach similar to that taken by the Vermont Supreme Court in 1999, which ruled lawmakers can reserve the term "marriage" for the union of one man and one woman, but must grant all couples equal legal protections. Vermont lawmakers responded by allowing same-sex couples to form "civil unions."
While we deeply regret that the homos of Hoboken still don't have the same right to be as miserable as the rest of us, we have to admit a little joy in the fact that at least we won't have to endure New Jersey Transit's terrible service while wearing a tuxedo as we schlep out to another gay wedding in Wyckoff. Semantics aside (and semantics are sort of the point) this sucks.
UPDATE: Awesome! A reader writes:
Was a bit distressed to see you guys post the Star-Ledger story, as their reporters got this decision VERY wrong. The majority ruled that all the legal protections of marriage must be given to same-sex couples. The legislature is given 180 days either to amend the marriage statutes or to create some other system to give same-sex couples the same legal rights under state law that heterosexuals have (as Vermont, Connecticut and California do). Three of the seven judges would have ruled that same-sex couples must be allowed to marry outright. There were no dissents. Marriage isn't out of the picture — the legislature could very well decide to go ahead and grant full marriage. Or they may do civil unions. But the Star-Ledger's version — that marriage is out of the question — is wrong.
So we'll just wait for the legislature to punt on this one. Also, we'll stop relying on New Jersey papers.
Decision [NJSC, pdf]