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NJ Supreme Court hears arguments on same-sex marriage

New Jersey’s ban on same-sex marriage has landed in the lap of its high court and arguments were heard yesterday. Blogger Jay Lassiter of Lassiter’s Space was in on a conference call last night debriefing about the going-on in the court.

…the judges asked just the types of engaging questions that we hoped they would:
*How can the state justify baring gays from marriage?
*What compelling interest does the state have to draw the line between gays and straights?

It seemed like the Court’s questions focused on 3 areas.
1) How to best interpret NJ constitutional doctrine.

2) If the court does recognize expanding the definition of marriage, what are the limits?

(eg: if we strike down the dividing line between gays and straights, is bigamy next? I should note that this red-herring-of-an-argument has floated around each case challenging the traditional idea of marriage including mix-race couples back in the olden days. In the NJ case, the Court seemed to recognize that bigamy, etc was *not* at issue here.)

3) The final focus of the proceedings asked if Gay Marriage was a matter best left to the legislators to decide. Should the legislature’s preogative be underminded by a four judge majority? One judge’s reply hinted that NJ has a long tradition of relying on the State Supreme Court to enforce constitutional rights…..that the court must not defer to the legislators when they (state legislators) violate their (gay and lesbian) constituents’ constitutional rights.

Closing arguments were straight forward:
The plaintiffs asserted that NJ has a traditon of public policy against deiscrimination. The argument that there is a guarantee of equality in the constitution, that “similarly situated people should not be differentiated unless the state can provide a compelling reason to do so.”

The state countered that the state is entitled to make the gay/straight marriage distinction based on “history” and “tradition.”

The overall feeling, coming out of the court, was that the questions asked indicated strong engagement and positive sign.

Jay has more commentary at his pad.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding