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Friday, October 11, 2013

Courts - "Judge sets schedule for same-sex marriage case" in Penn. and in N.J.: "Judge Says New Jersey Can Begin Allowing Same-Sex Marriages in Two Weeks"

Amy Worden of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Harrisburg Bureau, reports:

HARRISBURG - The federal judge presiding over a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the state law barring same-sex marriage said Wednesday that he would decide within a month if the case should proceed to trial next year.

During an hour-long meeting with lawyers, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones 3d said he first must rule on motions by the Corbett administration to dismiss the case.

In filings to the judge, lawyers for the commonwealth have argued that under a 1972 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, federal courts have no jurisdiction over state marriage laws.

If Jones agrees with that decision, "the case is over," lawyer William Lamb told him. Lamb, a West Chester resident and former state Supreme Court judge, represents Corbett and state Health Secretary Michael Wolf.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs said they do not expect the motion to be granted. If it is, they plan to appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia.

The plaintiffs - 23 men, women, and children - want the judge to overturn the 1996 state law that defines marriage as a civil contract between "one man and one woman," and order the state to recognize their marriages as legal. They contend the law violates the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the 14th Amendment.

And in New Jersey, Kate Zernike reports today in the NY Times in a long story that begins:
A judge on Thursday cleared the way for same-sex marriages to start in New Jersey in two weeks, dismissing the state’s request to prevent the weddings until after an appeal of the court decision allowing them is completed.

“There is no ‘public interest’ in depriving a class of New Jersey residents their constitutional rights while appellate review is pursued,” wrote Judge Mary C. Jacobson of State Superior Court in Mercer County, who also wrote the decision last month that ordered the state to allow same-sex marriages. “On the contrary, granting a stay would simply allow the State to continue to violate the equal protection rights of New Jersey same-sex couples, which can hardly be considered a public interest.”

The state immediately requested that the appellate division grant a stay. It had already asked the New Jersey Supreme Court to hear the appeal on an expedited basis; the court has not said yet whether it will do so.

Judge Jacobson said in her opinion that the state had not demonstrated that its appeal was likely to be successful. And she denied the state’s argument that New Jersey would suffer “irreparable harm” if marriages began happening, ruling instead that the people harmed would be the same-sex couples who would have to wait even longer to gain access to the federal benefits that the United States Supreme Court guaranteed them in a decision in June.

For more on this New Jersey case, see this Sept. 27th ILB entry.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on October 11, 2013 01:37 PM
Posted to Courts in general