New Jersey Gay Marriage: It's a Millennial Issue

Two women at their gay wedding

On Monday, New Jersey became the 15th state (including D.C.) to legalize marriage for same-sex couples. This win is a big deal because it tips the scales on an issue that almost everyone in our generation supports.

Millennials support marriage equality by the widest margin of any demographic, with support currently at 70%. It's one of the issues that garners the largest amount of youth activism and advocacy. Over the past several years, millennials have pushed for equal marriage rights, and we're finally starting to see the kind of results that suggest lasting change:

But the win in New Jersey's does more than just up our numbers.

On Friday, the New Jersey Supreme Court unanimously decided to reject a stay requested by Governor Christie to put a hold on same-sex marriage until after his appeal of Judge Mary Jacobson's ruling could be decided. 

Chief Justice Stuart Rabner wrote the 20-page opinion: "The state has advanced a number of arguments, but none of them overcome this reality: same-sex couples who cannot marry are not treated equally under the law today," he wrote. "The harm to them is real, not abstract or speculative."

This decision is huge, especially when you consider that just three years ago in California, after a federal judge declared Prop 8 to be unconstitutional, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to another stay on marriages while Prop 8 made its way through the courts. It wasn't until the U.S. Supreme Court ruling this June that couples could again marry in the state.

New Jersey's decision, on the other hand, recognized that there was no benefit to a state delay and the only harm that would be done would be by the denial itself. This sets excellent precedent for courts to follow in the future, cutting out unnecessary wait times. 

But that's not all.

Governor Chris Christie surprised everyone Monday morning by announcing via email that he is withdrawing his administration's appeal of Jacobson's September ruling. A spokesperson for the governor explained that Christie was persuaded to let the ruling stand based in part on Friday's decision. "[The court] left no ambiguity about [their] unanimous view on the ultimate decision in this matter," he said.

Removing the threat of an appeal takes a lot of stress off the shoulders of the couples and families effected. Marsha Shapiro, who married her partner Louise just after midnight on Monday, expressed her relief this way: "Oh my God, we are absolutely elated. It's finally over. New Jersey has marriage equality forever. We couldn't ask for anything more."

The governor's spokesperson clarified that while "the governor disagrees with the court...the court has now spoken clearly as to their view of the New Jersey constitution and, therefore, same-sex marriage is the law." He went on to say that "the governor will do his constitutional duty and ensure his administration enforces the law as dictated by the New Jersey Supreme Court."

I'm pretty stunned by this, especially from a high-profile Republican governor who is likely considering a run for president in 2016. It's a clear sign that standing against equality is not just unpopular and a political liability, but judicially baseless. The tide has definitely turned.

Finally, a millennial priority is making sustained, significant gains. For a group often criticized for our apathy, issues we throw our weight behind are now front and center.

Gay marriage isn't just about gays, it's about our whole generation.