Today’s Supreme Court decision in Windsor v. United States means the federal government will start recognising gay marriages. But it won’t recognise civil unions from states like New Jersey that don’t have gay marriage.
That puts Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) in an awkward position.
Last February, Christie vetoed a bill that would have legalized gay marriage in the Garden State. A key part of the rationale behind his veto was that New Jersey already had a civil union law that was substantively equivalent to marriage, and so extending the word “marriage” to gays and lesbians wasn’t necessary to achieve equality.
He said in a statement at the time he issued his veto: “I have been just as adamant that same-sex couples in a civil union deserve the very same rights and benefits enjoyed by married couples—as well as the strict enforcement of those rights and benefits.”
At the time, gay rights advocates disputed the notion that civil unions were equivalent to marriage. After today’s decision, they are inarguably right.
People in same-sex civil unions in New Jersey lack access to federal benefits that are available to straight New Jersey couples and will soon be available to gay married couples in states like New York. The only way to rectify that is to legalise gay marriage.
New Jersey’s legislative sessions run for a full two years, meaning that the legislature has until January 2014 to override Christie’s 2012 veto. Many Republicans in the legislature have relied on the same “civil unions are good enough” argument, so today’s court decision raises the prospect that some will change their mind and an override will become possible.
I reached out to Christie’s spokesman and to a spokesman for New Jersey State Senate Republicans asking whether any of their positions on gay marriage have changed in light of today’s decision. I will post again if and when I get a response.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.