ANGELA DELLI SANTI | Associated Press Writer
TRENTON, N.J. — New Jersey’s Supreme Court won’t consider whether the state’s civil union law provides equal rights to gay couples before the case is heard in a lower court.
The court announced Monday, July 26 it cannot consider the merits of the claim by six same-sex couples that New Jersey’s civil union law is unconstitutional until there is a trial record.
Gay couples unsuccessfully sued New Jersey four years ago for the right to marry. They claim that by creating civil unions, the state has not fulfilled a court order to treat them the same as heterosexual couples seeking to marry.
The justices were split 3-3, one vote shy of the four needed for a motion to be granted.
Justice Virginia Long, who wrote the dissenting opinion, agreed there is an insufficient record for debating the merits of the claim, but she said hearing oral arguments would have helped guide the justices on how best to go about creating a judicial record.
Steven Goldstein, who leads the state’s largest gay rights group, Garden State Equality, said the decision perpetuates the unequal legal status of same-sex couples and their children.
“Same-sex couples will continue to be denied the consistent right to visit one another in the hospital, to make medical decisions for one another, and to receive equal health benefits from employers, all because of the deprivation of the equality and dignity that uniquely comes with the word marriage,” he said in a statement.