Same-Sex marriages are now legal in New Jersey, for the first time in the State’s history. This monumental shift in State Law represents momentum towards legalization of same-sex marriage throughout the nation. New Jersey became the 14th state to officially allow same-sex marriage, and perhaps it is a notable state given that the State already allowed civil unions and because it is a state with a Governor that many view as opposing same-sex marriage (at least absent state constitutional amendment or referendum).
The Legislation for same-sex marriage (“S-1”) had been vetoed by Governor Christie late last year. Christie had previously indicated he would likely appeal the matter to the State Supreme Court made an announcement on the 21st of October that he would withdraw that appeal, which likely would have been a losing battle.
Of course, same-sex marriage has been perhaps more of a political issue than a legal one over the years, but given the momentum (and particularly the moment of same-sex marriage in the northeast and new england), I personally believe it is likely that the legality of same-sex marriage will be unquestioned in most states within a generation (at the very latest). That said, should the makeup of the State Supreme Court change, the current matter could always be brought to the Supreme Court of the State, and the decision to legalize same-sex marriage could, at that time, be overturned. This is a possibility that many experts appear to be discounting given the momentum of the issue.
From a practical standpoint, as a family law practitioner, this means that same-sex marriages will be treated the same as any marriage, and the divorce process will be the same when those same-sex marriages fail.
It would appear that those with civil unions have the option to either keep the civil union intact, or to marry. In the coming weeks and months, it will be interesting from a professional standpoint to see how certain issues are resolved as same-sex marriage and divorce are implemented throughout the State.
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