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Same-Sex Marriage Bid Loses in Ruling

A New Jersey appellate court agrees that gays can't wed without legislative action.

June 15, 2005|From Associated Press

NEWARK, N.J. — A state appeals court ruled Tuesday that New Jersey's Constitution did not require the recognition of gay marriage, rejecting the efforts of seven same-sex couples who sued the state to allow them to marry.

The panel, in a 2-1 decision, affirmed a lower court ruling that said legislators must change marriage laws before same-sex couples could wed.

Without legislative action, "there is no basis for construing the New Jersey Constitution to compel the state to authorize marriages between members of the same sex," Appellate Judge Stephen Skillman wrote for the majority.

Appellate Judge Donald G. Collester dissented, saying that if marriage was defined strictly as a heterosexual union, couples were denied the right to marry the person of their choice and so had no real right to marry.

The dissent virtually assures the case will be heard by the state Supreme Court. The seven couples sued the state to allow them to marry, but their case was rejected by a judge in 2003.

The New Jersey attorney general's office said it had addressed the concerns of gay couples through a domestic partnership law that offered same-sex couples some rights similar to those of married couples, including tax benefits and the ability to make medical decisions for each other.

Marilyn Maneely and Diane Marini, together for 14 years, are one of the seven couples who brought the suit. Their quest for the same benefits enjoyed by straight couples became far more urgent when Maneely was diagnosed four months ago with Lou Gehrig's disease.

"I don't get any of her Social Security," Marini said. "I don't get any of these things we've been living for."

Massachusetts is the only state that allows gay marriages.

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