Today, New Jersey judicially recognized that the fundamental right of liberty includes the ability to choose who you want to marry.
The statutory and decisional laws of [New Jersey] protect individuals from discrimination based on sexual orientation. When those individuals are gays and lesbians who follow the inclination of their sexual orientation and enter into a committed relationship with someone of the same sex, our laws treat them, as couples, differently than heterosexual couples. As committed same-sex partners, they are not permitted to marry or to enjoy the multitude of social and financial benefits and privileges conferred on opposite-sex married couples. In this case, we must decide whether persons of the same sex have a fundamental right to marry that is encompassed within
the concept of liberty guaranteed by . . . the New Jersey Constitution.
[ . . . ]
Only rights that are deeply rooted in the traditions, history, and conscience of the people are deemed to be fundamental. Although we cannot find that a fundamental right to same-sex marriage exists in this State, the unequal dispensation of rights and benefits to committed same-sex partners can no longer be tolerated under our State Constitution. With this State’s legislative and judicial commitment to eradicating sexual orientation discrimination as
our backdrop, we now hold that denying rights and benefits to committed same-sex couples that are statutorily given to their heterosexual counterparts violates the equal protection
guarantee of [our state constitution].
Lewis v. Harris, full decision at How Appealing. Take note that this is a 4-3 decision, with the majority finding that New Jersey must create a “separate-but-equal” marriage framework. Chief Justice Deborah T. Portiz wrote a separate opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, joined by two of her fellows, arguing that Jersey citizens ought to have access to marriage as we currently know it. None of the justices argued that the citizenry ought not have the right to marry under some scheme.
Chief Justice Portiz retired today, as is required under New Jersey law, because she is seventy years old. The judge is a titan.
I wrote about the New York Court of Appeals decision in Hernandez v. Robles previously, and hailed the dissent as “a portrait of a better world, one where we value all citizens, and their liberties, equally.” Today New Jersey, unlike some states, walked boldly into that new world of liberty, and for that, I applaud them.