TRENTON, N.J. (CNS) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie planned to appeal a state judge’s Sept. 27 ruling that same-sex couples “must be allowed to marry” to receive “equal protection of the law” under the state constitution.
Superior Court Judge Mary C. Jacobson said her ruling would take effect Oct. 21.
New Jersey currently recognizes civil unions, and last year Christie vetoed a measure to legalize same-sex marriage, saying the issue should be put before voters this November.
“Gov. Christie has always maintained that he would abide by the will of the voters on the issue of marriage equality and called for it to be on the ballot this Election Day,” said his press secretary, Michael Drewniak. “Since the Legislature refused to allow the people to decide expeditiously, we will let the Supreme Court make this constitutional determination.”
Democrats in the statehouse Sept. 30 urged the New Jersey Supreme Court to “fast-track” any appeal Christie may file with the higher court.
The New Jersey Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state’s Catholic bishops, did not issue an immediate reaction to Jacobson’s ruling but a long-standing statement on its website urged citizens “to protect marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”
“Same-sex unions may represent a new and a different type of institution — but it is not marriage and should not be treated as marriage,” it said.
Catholic teaching upholds the sanctity of traditional marriage, between one man and one woman, and also teaches that any sexual activity outside of marriage is sinful.
“Citizens must care about the government’s treatment of marriage because civil authorities are charged with protecting children and the common good, and marriage is indispensable to both purposes,” said the conference’s statement. “Citizens have the right and the responsibility to hold civil authorities accountable for their stewardship of the institution of marriage.
“Citizens also have the responsibility to oppose laws and policies that unjustly target people as bigots or that subject people to charges of unlawful discrimination simply because they believe and teach that marriage is the union of man and a woman,” it added.
In her ruling Jacobson said same-sex couples in New Jersey are entitled to the same rights and benefits “as opposite-sex couples,” pointing out that since June 26, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the federal Defense of Marriage Act to be unconstitutional, “several federal agencies have acted to extend marital benefits to same-sex couples.”
“However, the majority of those agencies have not extended eligibility for those benefits to civil union couples,” she wrote.
“As a result New Jersey same-sex couples in civil unions,” she continued, “are no longer entitled to all of the same rights and benefits as opposite-sex marriage couples,” who receive federal marital benefits “for no reason other than the label placed upon their relationships by the state.”
The New Jersey Catholic Conference statement reiterated Catholic teaching that “our homosexual brothers and sisters are beloved children of God” and “the fundamental human rights of homosexual persons must be defended. “Everyone must strive to eliminate any forms of injustice, oppression, or violence against homosexual persons” and any sign of “unjust discrimination” must be avoided.
“But it is not ‘unjust discrimination’ to treat different things differently,” it said. “Same-sex unions are not, in fact, the same thing as the union of one man and one woman in marriage.”