US: New Jersey judge pushed to allow equal marriage in DOMA test case

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

A New Jersey court case will today begin to hear oral arguments in a test of the implications of the Supreme Court ruling which struck down key sections of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), to find out what it means in that state.

The ruling would only affect laws in the state of New Jersey, but is being closely watched because of potentially broader implications, reports the Associated Press. It is not clear whether, if Judge Mary Jacobson rules that equal marriage should be legally recognised, whether same-sex marriages could take place immediately.

On 26 June, the US Supreme Court announced that it had found DOMA unconstitutional. It had previously defined marriage as between one man and one woman, and the Supreme Court decision paved the way for over 1,100 benefits, previously not afforded to same-sex couples.

The hearing will take place on Thursday in Superior Court in Trenton, and is based on a lawsuit from 2011, when six couples argued that the state’s civil union law did not fulfil a ruling in the state Supreme Court from 2006, which said that gay couples had the right to the same legal protections as straight married couples.

It is unclear how the judge will rule, and an appeal against her decision is possible in a higher court.

State lawmakers say it is too soon for equal marriage to be made legal, despite that a bill to legalise it passingby state lawmakers last year before Governor Chris Christie vetoed it.

Governor Christie, in June spoke out following the Supreme Court’s strike-down of the DOMA to say that it “was wrong”.

He has voiced his opposition to equal marriage, and has more than once said that he thinks the issue should go to referendum. The Governor used his veto on a bill which could have legalised equal marriage last year, blocking its passage.

Back in April, a poll revealed that almost two-thirds of voters in the US state of New Jersey would vote in favour of legalising equal marriage.