TRENTON, New Jersey (CNN) "The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the state's constitution gives gay and lesbian couples all the rights of married heterosexual couples.
But the court left it to the state legislature to decide what to call the relationship.
It gave lawmakers 180 days to either include gay and lesbian couples in the state's existing marriage laws or grant those rights under the title civil unions."
Forbes:"New Jersey's highest court opened the door Wednesday to making the state the second in the nation to allow gay marriage, ruling that lawmakers must offer homosexuals either marriage or something like it, such as civil unions.
In a ruling that fell short of what either side wanted or feared, the state Supreme Court declared 4-3 that homosexual couples are entitled to the same rights as heterosexual ones. The justices gave lawmakers 180 days to rewrite the laws.
The ruling is similar to the 1999 high-court ruling in Vermont that led the state to create civil unions, which confer all of the rights and benefits available to married couples under state law."
The Family Law Prof Blog, posted last week on Same-Sex Marriage Ballot Questions from a New York Times Article by Kirk Johnson, "The debate over same-sex marriage was a black-or-white proposition two years ago when voters in 11 states barred gay couples from marrying. But this year shades of gray are everywhere, as eight more states consider similar ballot measures. Some of the proposed bans are struggling in the polls, and the issue of same-sex marriage itself has largely failed to rouse conservative voters. In some cases, other issues, like the war in Iraq and ethics in Washington, have seized voters’ attention. But the biggest change, people on both sides of the issue say, is that supporters of same-sex marriage this year are likely to be as mobilized as the opponents."
Today, there will be a New Jersey court ruling on the issue:
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: October 25, 2006
MOUNT LAUREL, N.J. (AP) -- New Jersey could become the nation's gay wedding chapel should the state's highest court rule in favor of same-sex marriages, adversaries on the issue agree.
The New Jersey Supreme Court is poised to release its highly anticipated decision Wednesday in a case brought by seven gay couples who say the state constitution allows them to marry, said Winnie Comfort, a spokeswoman for the state judiciary.
New Jersey is one of only five states with neither a law nor a state constitutional amendment blocking same-sex marriage. As a result, the state is more likely than others to allow gays to wed, said advocacy groups on both sides.
Only Massachusetts -- by virtue of a 2003 ruling from that state's top court -- allows gay marriages.
Proponents and opponents from across the country are watching the case closely.
''New Jersey is a stepping stone,'' said Matt Daniels, president of the Virginia-based Alliance for Marriage, a group pushing for an amendment to the federal Constitution to outlaw same-sex marriage. ''It's not about New Jersey.''
From a practical standpoint, the Massachusetts court decision made little impact nationally because the state has a law barring out-of-state couples from wedding there if their marriages would not be recognized in their home states.
New Jersey has no such law.
People on both sides of the issue expect a victory for same-sex unions would make New Jersey a destination for gay couples from around the country who want to get married. Some of those couples could return home and sue to have their marriages recognized.
Daniels said gay-rights advocates are already looking ahead to such lawsuits. ''Their game, of course, is they figure all they need to do is execute this maneuver in a half-dozen states and they'll have the momentum,'' he said.
David S. Buckel, the Lambda Legal lawyer who argued on behalf of the seven New Jersey couples, said he expects some couples would travel to the New Jersey to get married if his suit is successful. But, he said, ''it won't be tidal.''
Buckel said that there have been relatively few such lawsuits filed in the U.S. by couples who went to Canada to exchange vows.
And, he said, while many same-sex couples would prefer to be married, they are getting more legal protections for their relationships. Several states, including New Jersey, offer domestic partnerships or civil unions with some of the benefits of marriage. A growing number of employers are treating same-sex couples the same way they treat married couples.
Cases similar to New Jersey's are pending in California, Connecticut, Iowa and Maryland.
Conservatives watching the cases believe the best chance for gay marriage to be allowed would be in New Jersey, where the state Supreme Court has a history of extending civil rights protections.
Gay marriage supporters have had a two-year losing streak, striking out in state courts in New York and Washington state and in ballot boxes in 15 states where constitutions have been amended to ban same-sex unions.