Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Sky is Falling...

"Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies; rivers and seas boiling; forty years of darkness; earthquakes, volcanoes... the dead rising from the grave; human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together - mass hysteria..."
Get ready, here it comes...
Equal application of the law for gay people in New Jersey -- gasp. Below is the pertinent excerpt from the NJ Supreme Court's opinion (seems right to me):

Although we cannot find that a fundamental right to same-sex marriage exists in this State, the unequal dispensation of rights and benefits to committed same-sex partners can no longer be tolerated under our State Constitution. With this StateÂ’s legislative and judicial commitment to eradicating sexual orientation discrimination as our backdrop, we now hold that denying rights and benefits to committed same-sex couples that are statutorily given to their heterosexual counterparts violates the equal protection guarantee of Article I, Paragraph 1. To comply with this constitutional mandate, the Legislature must either amend the marriage statutes to include same-sex couples or create a parallel statutory structure, which will provide for, on equal terms, the rights and benefits enjoyed and burdens and obligations borne by married couples. We will not presume that a separate statutory scheme, which uses a title other than marriage, contravenes equal protection principles, so long as the rights and benefits of civil marriage are made equally available to same-sex couples. The name to be given to the statutory scheme that provides full rights and benefits to same-sex couples, whether marriage or some other term, is a matter left to the democratic process.

An extremely moderate (i.e., middle of the road) opinion. The court found that there is no "fundamental right to same sex marriage," but that all partners, regardless of the line-up at hand, are entitled to equal application of the state's statutory benefits. How novel. And unlike Mass, the court is even allowing the legislature to determine the name for such arrangements ("marriage," "civil union," "herd," "coven" - whatever works). I like it. Fifty little autonomous laboratories for social experiment. Alright, so what's the over-under on how long it takes the in-state homophobic coalition (whom I am willing to bet call themselves, "limited-government, states' rights-endorsing, conservatives") to petition the Feds to preempt this decision with a federal constitutional amendment?
UPDATE: October 27, 2006: Dale Carpenter summarizes and analyzes the NJ Opinion nicely here.