Don’t Know Lewis v. Harris?

Ken AshfordElection 2006, Sex/Morality/Family ValuesLeave a Comment

Well, you’re about to.

The New Jersey Supreme Court is announcing its decision on Lewis v. Harris today at 3 pm.

It’s a same-sex marriage case, and conventional wisdom suggests that the NJSC will come out in favor of gay marriages (New Jersey, unlike most states, has no law or state constitution provision which defines marriages as strictly between a man and woman).

This could be the "October Surprise" that Rove is hoping for — causing everyone to turn away from issues like Iraq or health care or the economy, and rallying the GOP base just in time for the upcoming elections.  Hey — fanning the flames of the gay marriage issue worked in 2004, right?

But hopefully, America has woken up and learned how to prioritize issues that are life-and-death over those that just irritate them personally.

[3:00 p.m. UPDATE:  The decision was basically this:

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….

To bring the State into compliance with Article I, Paragraph 1 so that plaintiffs can exercise their full constitutional rights, the Legislature must either amend the marriage statutes or enact an appropriate statutory structure within 180 days of the date of this decision….

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.

Ruling is here (PDF format).  Essentially, it means that gays are entitled to all the benefits of marriage, but New Jersey has to decide if it wants to call it "marriage" or "civil unions" or whatever.  Certainly a victory for progress, and I’m sure the religious right (what remains of it) will.]