Lawyers in a New Jersey same-sex marriage case said Wednesday that they intend to make a new court filing after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that strikes down a federal ban on recognizing gay unions.
In the hours after the Supreme Court's ruling that invalidated parts of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, advocates for gay rights were sorting out the details of their legal and political approach in New Jersey, one of seven states that offer gay couples the legal protection of marriage but do not recognize their nuptials.
Lambda Legal lawyer Hayley Gorenberg said she planned have a conference call Wednesday afternoon with a judge and lawyers for the state government to discuss the next filing. It was not clear before the conference exactly when or where the filing will be made, Gorenberg said.
She said the court should recognize that Wednesday's federal ruling changes the landscape in New Jersey.
"New Jersey barring marriage and only allowing civil unions is all that's keeping people from their federal rights," she said.
Gorenberg is one of the main lawyers in a suit brought by seven gay couples and several of their children who argue that New Jersey's law civil unions law does not comply with a 2006 state Supreme Court ruling that found gay couples were entitled to the same legal protections as married heterosexual couples.
The gay rights groups have argued that civil unions are not widely understood and that they create an improper separate legal classification for gay couples.
Now, Gorenberg said, the plaintiffs can also argue that state law deprives couples of more than 1,000 federal rights.
Lawmakers in New Jersey last year passed a law to allow gay marriage, but Gov. Chris Christie vetoed it.
Several Democratic legislators called Wednesday for the state to recognize same-sex unions, but it was not clear whether the federal ruling would help them get any more votes to override the veto.
Sen. Raymond Lesniak said in a statement that he believes the state's top court "will quickly provide gay couples the right to marry."
A spokesman for the state attorney general's Office, which is defending the law in court, said the office would not comment on the impact of Wednesday's development.