This month marks the ten-year anniversary of August 12, 2004, the day when New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey announced his resignation in a speech during which he came out as a “gay American” who had an extra-marital affair with another man. McGreevey was facing a scandal for appointing the man with whom he was having the affair to the post of homeland security advisor, a position for which he was arguably unqualified; the Governor was also facing threats of a sexual harassment lawsuit from the man. After leaving the governorship in November 2004, McGreevey entered a theological seminary in furtherance of a Master of Divinity degree. Today he volunteers as a counselor helping ex-offenders work toward rehabilitation.
Coincidentally, McGreevey’s resignation also came at a time when the people of New Jersey were embarking on a ten-year legal struggle for marriage equality. During that decade, the legal landscape for gay and lesbian couples has seen remarkable advancements in the legislature and in the courts, sometimes with support and sometimes with opposition from the executive administration, depending upon the governorship at the time. Let’s take a look at the legal developments that began in the same year as Governor McGreevey’s resignation, culminating last year in the recognition of same-sex marriage in New Jersey on equal footing with opposite-sex marriages.
January 12, 2004 – New Jersey becomes one of the first states in the nation to implement a domestic partnership law for same-sex couples, providing partners with some of the benefits afforded to married couples
October 25, 2006 – New Jersey Supreme Court in Lewis v. Harris rules that the state must grant the same rights and benefits of marriage to same-sex couples that it grants to married couples
December 14, 2006 – New Jersey legislature passes a bill legalizing civil unions for same-sex couples, providing the benefits of marriage to same-sex couples; Governor Jon Corzine signs the bill into law on December 21st
February 16, 2012 – Bill to legalize same-sex marriage is passed by the legislature but vetoed the next day by Governor Chris Christie, who calls for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage
June 26, 2013 – The Supreme Court of the United States in the U.S. v. Windsor strikes down Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) defining marriage as between a man and a woman for purposes of federal law, holding instead that the federal government must provide the same benefits to same-sex couples who were married under state law that it grants to other married couples
September 27, 2013 – A Mercer County Superior Court judge in Garden State Equality v. Dow rules that since the New Jersey civil union law is not recognized as a marriage under federal law, the NJ constitution requires the state to recognize and permit same-sex civil marriage
October 21, 2013 – Local officials begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples