Did you realize that the ban on marriage equality in New Jersey is really the federal government’s fault for not recognizing civil unions? That’s the direct-from-an-alternate-reality argument that the state made Thursday in a case challenging the state’s refusal to allow same-sex marriages.
In a hearing before state Judge Mary Jacobson, state assistant attorney general Kevin Jespersen argued that the state already recognizes civil unions. If that’s not good enough for the federal government, then marriage equality proponents should push the feds to change its laws. New Jersey really has nothing to do with it.
Larry Lustberg, the attorney arguing for Garden State Equality, one of the groups involved in the legal challenge, had a simple response for Jespersen: “It is the state, not the federal government that is the source of the problem here.”
Jacobson didn’t seem sold on Jespersen’s argument either. “It seems like you’re asking the federal government to do something very complicated — ‘look at all the states to see what kinds of definitions of marriage there are,’” she said. However, Jacobson also questioned Lustberg on whether the issue of marriage equality should be settle in court.
“Many judges and justices on a state and federal level say on such far-reaching matters, such as same-sex marriage, it ought to be decided by the political process rather than by the courts,” Jacobson told Lustberg.
Jacobson will not issue until next month at the earliest. Should she rule before Election Day, her decision could present an interesting problem for Gov. Chris Christie, who has been using his opposition to marriage equality to fuel his presidential ambitions. A majority of New Jersey residents support marriage equality — in fact, the highest number for any state that does not recognize same-sex marriage. The state legislature has approved a marriage equality measure, which Christie vetoed. If the case goes against him, how long can Christie expect to hold out against the political current in his own state?