Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Gay marriage in New Jersey?

New Jersey Chief Justice Deborah T. Poritz's last day on the bench is Thursday, her 70th birthday. As a goodbye to Poritz, the New Jersey Supreme Court will be releasing its opinion in Mark Lewis, et al. v. Gwendolyn L. Harris, et al, No. A-68-05 -- the New Jersey gay marriage case.

From the front page of the New Jersey judiciary's website (right below the "pay your traffic ticket online" link!):
The following Supreme Court decision is expected to be released on Wednesday, October 25, 2006, at 3:00 p.m.: A-68-05 Mark Lewis, et al. v. Gwendolyn L. Harris, et al. Mercer County and Statewide)
According to the Supreme Court's website, the question to be decided is: "Does the New Jersey Constitution require the State to allow same-sex couples to marry?"

It has long been rumored that Chief Justice Poritz would author the main opinion in favor of granting marriage rights to gays. Whether that is the majority opinion or a dissent remains to be seen.

I guess we'll find out tomorrow.


The skinny from the Trenton streets is that Poritz was unable to get the 4 votes needed in favor of a right to gay marriage under the New Jersey Constitution and is stuck with just 3. How does it break down?

Rumor has it that newly-confirmed Chief Justice James R. Zazzali is a "no" vote and our guess is that Justice John E. Wallace, Jr. and Justice Roberto A. Rivera-Soto are also on the "no" side. Wallace and Rivera-Soto, although appointed by Democrats, are Repbulicans (at least in name) because they replaced Republicans on the court (New Jersey has always kept their Supreme Court at a 4-3 political split). We wouldn't describe them as conservatives, by any means, given that the New Jersey Supreme Court hasn't had a true conservative on it in many years.

With Poritz on the "yes" side is likely Justice Virginia Long, one of the court's more liberal members, and either Justice Barry T. Albin or Justice Jaynee LaVecchia. Albin was put on the court by former governor Jim McGreevey and is a Democrat. We wouldn't necessarily call him a liberal, but he's sure no conservative. LaVecchia is a Republican who was put on the bench by Governor Christie Whitman. She is best described as a moderate, probably slightly more pro-business.

So if its a 4-3 no-marriage split, our guess is that the "no" votes are Zazzali, LaVecchia, Wallace, Rivera-Soto. That leaves dissents by Poritz, Long and Albin.

Wednesday Morning Thoughts:

We'll know what the outcome is in about 4 hours, but thinking about it more last night we have just a few more things to share:

1) By no means are we predicting a 4-3 "no marriage" split. We talked with our people in Trenton and that was the general consensus on why it was taking so long -- Poritz was trying to win another vote (although the opinion might have been delayed so as not to be a center piece to Zazzali's confirmation hearing). This morning's news from New Jersey 101.5 noted that it was the "consensus" from both sides of the political aisle that the court would rule in favor of gay marriage. This is an activist court. It has been for 30+ years.

2) We do not see this as a unanimous opinion. It could be 4-3 yes, 4-3 no, 6-2 yes, etc. It won't be 7-0 either way.

3) Fox News (and the AP) reported the story this morning as a "headline" during Fox and Friends. The Fox anchor noted that since New Jersey doesn't have a residency requirement for marriage, like Massachusetts, gay couples will "flock" to New Jersey to get married. I'd be interested to see what a flock of gays looks like. ;-)

phew! i dont want to get married! or the pressure from society. no! No! NO!
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