The ancestral homeland opened the door to gay marriage Wednesday, ruling that the state must grant the same rights to homosexual unions as heterosexual ones, and giving the state legislature 180 days to write the appropriate legislation. Though some gay rights groups are unhappy that the court refused to mandate gay marriage, they essential won the issue, as the court mandated equal rights for gay couples, but left it to the legislature whether to call gay unions “marriages” or “civil unions.” Conservative groups are understandably unhappy. The Garden State is currently one of only five states that doesn’t have a constitutional amendment or law on the books explicitly forbidding gay marriage, though one Republican state legislator hopes to change that by constitutional amendment in 2007.
Vermont and Connecticut currently allow civil unions for homosexuals. Massachusetts is the only state so far that allows gay marriages. If the Garden State goes the gay marriage route, some experts expect a lot of gay couples to flock to the state to get married, as Massachusetts state law forbids marriages for nonresidents whose home states wouldn’t recognize the union.
Both Senate candidates, Democratic incumbent Bob Menendez and challenger Tom Kean Jr. say they oppose gay marriage, but only Kean has called for a constitutional ban. Menendez says he supports civil unions.
The text of the New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision can be found here.