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Bush defends traditional marriage in face of New Jersey court ruling

[JURIST] President Bush Thursday reiterated his belief that "marriage is a union between a man and a woman" a day after the New Jersey Supreme Court [official website] ruled that same-sex couples in the state must be afforded the same rights [JURIST report] as heterosexual couples. At a Republican fundraiser Bush spoke out against what he called [transcript] the ruling of "another activist court" and stated that marriage is "a sacred institution that is critical to the health of our society and the well-being of families, and it must be defended." Bush has pushed [JURIST report] for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriages but the Marriage Protection Amendment [PDF text; H.J. Res. 88 summary] was defeated [JURIST report] in the US House of Representatives in July.

While the New Jersey ruling extends same-sex couples the same rights as married couples, the court left it up to the state's legislature to decide whether New Jersey will recognize same-sex marriage or another form of civil unions. New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Barry Albin [official profile] held:

Denying committed same-sex couples the financial and social benefits and privileges given to their married heterosexual counterparts bears no substantial relationship to a legitimate governmental purpose. The Court holds that under the equal protection guarantee of Article I, Paragraph I of the New Jersey Constitution, committed same-sex couples must be afforded on equal terms the same rights and benefits enjoyed by opposite-sex couples under civil marriage statutes. 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.
Reaction in New Jersey was swift, as Republican legislators promised to introduce a bill [Reuters report] next week calling for an amendment to the New Jersey State Constitution [text] that will define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Legislators for both parties will affirm the equal rights of same-sex couples but will unlikely allow the unions to be called a marriage. The American Civil Liberties Union [advocacy website] applauded the New Jersey decision and stated that public support for marriage for same-sex couples in New Jersey is strong and growing [press release].

Currently, Massachusetts is the only state to allow same-sex marriage [JURIST news archive], which was legalized when the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts [official] ruled [JURIST report] in 2003 that a ban on such marriages was unconstitutional. Several cases similar to the New Jersey case have been decided or are pending in other states including California, Washington, Tennessee, Nebraska, and Connecticut [JURIST reports]. AP has more.

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