An important point I noticed at the time but inadvertently left out of my earlier posting on the New Jersey same-sex marriage ruling: the decision, in its essence, was unanimous. All seven justices agreed that the committed relationships of the gay and lesbian citizens of New Jersey must be accorded the same legal rights and privileges as those of committed heterosexual couples who enter into marriage. Three of the seven concurring–including the retired chief justice–actually went further, stating that they believed that same-sex couples should, in fact, be able to be married, not only to get the rights and privileges but to be able to use the word “marriage” itself, recognizing the power of words. The state can still elect to just amend the marriage laws rather than enacting a separate-but-equal system of civil unions, but that one vote gives them the option of using the same slimy out that Vermont ultimately chose. Most important, of course, is that the gay and lesbian relationships of New Jersey will, at least, be treated fairly by the law; and people will call their own commitments whatever they will, even the majority opinion recognized their right to do so.
The major press is missing or glossing over this point, often, including even The New York Times which, as of the time of this post, still refers ambiguously to a 4-3 ruling granting these rights to same-sex couples. That makes it sound as though three justices would have ruled against granting those rights, when in fact those three wanted not only to grant those rights, but to go further. It is important–very important–that none of the seven justices would find that same-sex couples should not get the same rights as heterosexual couples.
Another reason this opinion has been so closely watched, and is so important outside New Jersey as well as within, is that New Jersey–unlike Massachusetts–has no laws prohibiting marriage (nor may they enact such laws to apply only to the same-sex variant) where such marriage wouldn’t be recognized in the applicant’s own state. The possibility, then–and the fear of the right–is that same-sex couples will come from all over the U.S. to be married in New Jersey, and then sue for recognition within their own states, challenging the constitutionality of the offensively misnamed federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).