78
BARBARA A. LEE
be tolerated under our State Constitution. With this State’s leg-
islative and judicial commitment to eradicating sexual orienta-
tion 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
.
70
The court ordered the state legislature to either amend the state’s marriage
law to include same-sex couples or to create a “parallel statutory structure”
that “provide[s] for, on equal terms, the rights and benefits enjoyed and bur-
dens and obligations borne by married couples.
71
Three justices dissented
from the majority’s rejection of the plaintiffs’ argument that only marriage
— not a law providing for equal benefits — was the only way that the un-
constitutional deprivation could be cured.
The state legislature then enacted a statute providing for civil unions in
2006
.
72
The New Jersey legislature passed a same-sex marriage bill in
February, 2012, but it was vetoed by the governor.
Heterosexual Marriage and the Protection of Children
Other state courts have rejected plaintiffs’ claims that limiting marriage to
opposite-sex individuals denies equal protection. In these opinions, courts
hew to the traditional view of heterosexual marriage as an institution whose
purpose is procreation. Their opinions also suggest discomfort with the
notion of same-sex individuals engaging in sexual activity.
70
.
71
Id
.
72
,
effective Feb. 19, 2007.
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