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NJ Gay Marriage Case in Court Today [AUDIO]

New Jersey takes center stage in same-sex marriage battle today.

Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

A Superior Court Judge is scheduled to hear oral arguments on the summary judgment motion in GSE (Garden State Equality) v. Dow. The plaintiffs argue that the state’s civil union law doesn’t afford gay couples equal rights. The state says if the federal government isn’t granting rights to same-sex couples, supporters of gay marriage should be going after the federal government.

The hearing marks yet another beginning. It is unclear when the judge will rule, but when the decision is handed down an appeal is all but certain and most feel the case will ultimately end up in the New Jersey Supreme Court.

“I truly hope there is no appeal if we win the case, but I would think there would be,” says Troy Stevenson, GSE executive director.” “Today is vital. It’s the absolute next step. We’ll know shortly what the legal precedent being set is.”

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down critical parts of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and ruled that legally married same-sex couples should have the same federal benefits as heterosexual married couples. DOMA defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

“It is now very, very clear that there is a massive divide between the benefits that civil unions provide and that which marriage provides,” says Stevenson. “In this case we have been mounting evidence that civil unions have not provided the equality or the dignity that marriage does provide.”

The day the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling was announced, Gov. Chris Christie addressed the issue on Townsquare Media’s monthly ‘Ask the Governor’ program.

“I thought it was a bad decision, but it has no effect on New Jersey at all, so we move from here,” said Christie, “If the people of the State of New Jersey want to amend our constitution in order to make same-sex marriage legal and permissible in the state they have every right to do it, and the only people who can give them that opportunity is the New Jersey State Legislature.”

State Sen. President Steve Sweeney says he will not put a same-sex marriage question on the ballot because he believes it’s the legislature’s job to handle civil rights issues. It’s a moot point for 2013 anyway. The deadline to place a question on this November’s ballot has come and gone. Some of Sweeney’s fellow Democrats still place the blame squarely on Christie. They claim that by vetoing the bill to legalize same-sex marriage, the Governor is standing in the way of progress.

“The problem in this state is one man is holding up progress. He’s holding up history,” claims Assemblyman Tim Eustace, one of the prime sponsors of the bill Christie vetoed. “The Governor is behind the eight ball on this. He’s harming families that live here in the state of New Jersey.”

The Governor has consistently said if the voters decide to amend the constitution to allow gay marriage he would uphold the law.

“If you honestly believe it’s the right thing to do, and the proponents have said all along that the majority of people in New Jersey want it. Well then, put it on the ballot, then it will pass and that’s the end of the discussion,” said Christie in June. “The Democrats are putting an increase on the minimum wage on the ballot. That’s important enough to put on the ballot, but gay marriage is not?”

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