[JURIST] A judge for New Jersey’s Mercer County Superior Court in Trenton ruled [opinion, PDF] Friday that same-sex couples must be allowed to marry. Judge Mary Jacobson found that the current status of civil unions deprive same-sex couples of federal benefits enjoyed by married couples. In light of the recent US Supreme Court decision in US v. Windsor [SCOTUSBlog backgrounder; JURIST report], Jacobson found that “Same-sex couples must be allowed to marry in order to obtain equal protection of the law under the New Jersey constitution.” Opponents of the ruling claim that such a decision should be put to a referendum. This has long been the position of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who vowed to appeal the ruling [NJ News report]. Same-sex marriage supporters praised the decision as one step closer to achieving equality and plan to fight the state’s eventual appeal.
The heated debate over same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder] is one of the most polarizing issues currently facing the American legal community. Last week Michigan’s Treasury Department ruled [JURIST report] that same-sex spouses must file separate tax returns. On Wednesday a judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of Ohio [official website] expanded a lawsuit [JURIST report] seeking the recognition of same-sex spouses on death certificates. Judge Timothy Black ruled in July and September [JURIST reports] that the surviving same-sex spouses of two decedents should be listed as spouses on death certificates because their marriages were valid under the laws of the states where they were performed. Earlier last week a Kentucky judge ruled that the same-sex spouse of a woman charged with murder must testify against her at the trial because same-sex partners are not protected by the spousal privilege [JURIST report] under Kentucky state law