The Appellate Division of the NJ Superior Court has issued a groundbreaking decision on Friday in favor of gay and lesbian couples and their children. The Court agreed with arguments made by Garden State Equality in the case, holding in a published decision that “our laws, both legislatively and through judicial decisions, now recognize and protect the rights of LGBTQ people to equal dignity and treatment under law.” Garden State Equality argued as a friend of the court, seeking full equality for same-sex couples and their families.
The case dealt with the sad circumstance of the death of young girl in early 2009 who was hit by a truck while walking to see “Disney on Ice” in Trenton with her mothers, a lesbian couple who since that time have married. Marriage equality only became legal in New Jersey in 2013 as a result of the landmark lawsuit, Garden State Equality v. Dow.
New Jersey law allows a person to bring a lawsuit against someone who causes the death or serious physical injury of a close relative if they witness it, as happened here. The trial judge ruled that the non-biological mother, who was called “mom” by, and was holding the hand of the girl when she died, was merely a “lover” of the biological mother and, therefore, not a relative of the girl.
Garden State Equality pushed back to argue that same-sex couples and their children are, indeed, families, regardless of whether or not they have a biological connection. We asked the court for dignity and equality for this and every same-sex couple and their children, and the court granted it, saying “our fellow citizens now unequivocally reject this shameful, morally untenable bigotry.”
We are grateful to our legal counsel in this matter, Jennifer Hamilton, Esq., as well as the NJ State Bar Association, which has argued forcefully for our community’s equality for many years. Thomas H. Prol, Esq., the first openly gay president of the state bar and a Garden State Equality executive board member, appeared and argued for equality. We thank the couple’s attorney, Robin Kay Lord, Esq., for her incredible persistence and advocacy for this couple and their rights.