A sane and wise decision, in my view, although I haven't read and pondered the entire ruling or the dissents (I just arrived in L.A. from Cleveland). So allow me more time for a more nuanced judgment later (I'm due on the Hugh Hewitt show for two hours soon). But the bottom line is here:
"Denying committed same-sex couples the financial and social benefits and privileges given to their married heterosexual counterparts bears no substantial relationship to a legitimate governmental purpose. The Court holds that under the equal protection guarantee of Article I, Paragraph 1 of the New Jersey Constitution, committed same-sex couples must be afforded on equal terms the same rights and benefits enjoyed by opposite-sex couples under the civil marriage statutes. The name to be given to the statutory scheme that provides full rights and benefits to same-sex couples, whether marriage or some other term, is a matter left to the democratic process."
In other words: call it a civil union or a civil partnership if you will. And the legislature needs to come up with some kind of compromise wording. But the state constitution unequivocally requires equal treatment under the law. So this is not a state imposition of civil marriage. It is a state imposition of civil unions. I think this is a perfectly sane compromise. It's what the Brits have done. Leave the m-word to the churches; but let the state grant equal protection under the law. The Christianists can no longer claim that we are redefining civil marriage in New Jersey. We're just being fair to gay couples who, as citizens, have every right to be treated equally under the law.
My own position, of course, is that full civil marriage rights, with the m-word, is the only just solution. But in a democracy, there is not a majority for that yet. The court, by the way, is not being activist. It had no logical option but to apply its equal protection clause to everybody. Gay people are citizens, entitled to the same civil treatment by the government as anyone else. But the court has now left it to the legislature to decide on the name.
Checks and balances; state's rights; and fostering of both equality and responsibility. DOMA means it won't apply to any other state. Massachusetts has already shown that civil marriage can be kept within one's state's borders. The conservative soul just revived a little. May it grow stronger.