Lewis v. Harris

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  • Fairness in the Courts
  • LGBTQ+ Rights
  • Authored Amicus Brief
2006

Considered the constitutionality of New Jersey's ban on same sex marriage.

Our Role in the Case

Legal Momentum submitted amicus briefs in support of the plaintiffs at the Supreme Court and at the intermediate appellate level court.  Our briefs built on the New Jersey courts’ reproductive rights jurisprudence to argue that, just as New Jersey courts have recognized that the protection for fundamental rights of liberty and privacy afforded by the New Jersey Constitution goes well beyond the protection for these rights under the U.S. Constitution, the Court should likewise protect the fundamental right of same sex couples to make individual decisions regarding whom they wish to marry.  We also urged the Court to recognize that excluding same-sex couples from marriage unconstitutionally enforces gender stereotypes.  Irell & Manella was our pro bono counsel in this case.

Decision

The New Jersey Supreme Court held that the state’s ban on same sex marriage violated the equal protection guarantee in its constitution.  The Court held unanimously that there was no legitimate basis for denying same sex couples the full range of rights and benefits of marriage.  (The state had previously enacted a civil union statute that gave same sex couples some, but not all, of the rights of marriage.)  The Court did not, however, require that same sex couples be permitted to marry.  Instead, it gave the legislature 180 days to either amend the state marriage statutes to permit same sex couples to marry or to create a separate parallel structure, such as a more comprehensive civil union statute, that would permit same sex couples to enjoy all of the rights and benefits (and meet all of the obligations and burdens) of marriage.  Three judges dissented, arguing that anything other than "marriage" was inherently unequal.