Lawsuit calls to legalize same-sex marriages
[MORRIS TWP., NJ] - Maureen Kilian and Cindy Meneghin of Butler were high school sweethearts.
They have two children.
They've been a couple 28 years.
"We're ready to get married," Kilian told a crowd of 210 people Monday night at the Morristown Unitarian Fellowship.
Monday's meeting was the first of 10 throughout the state aimed to educate the gay and straight communities about a marriage equality lawsuit and potential domestic partnership legislation. Fifty-five statewide and local organizations are co-sponsoring the meetings.
Steven Goldstein of Lambda Legal said it's historic that the lesbian and gay movement is joining with other progressive organizations to fight for same-sex marriage and domestic partnership.
"This is really a banding together to fight for both," Goldstein said.
Kilian and Meneghin are one of seven gay and lesbian couples named as plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed against the state in June 2002 in state Superior Court in Jersey City. The lawsuit calls to legalize marriage for same-sex couples.
"It means a lot to us to have the social recognition and legal recognition that comes with that marriage license," Meneghin said.
She said it's been difficult at times of illness for her partner to remain by her side in the emergency room because, legally, they're not family.
Because the couples aren't married, they also don't receive the same benefits or legal and financial security.
Lambda Legal, a national, nonpartisan organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, the transgendered, and people with HIV or AIDS, has taken on the case to challenge the New Jersey Constitution. The New Jersey Supreme Court will have the final word in the lawsuit.
Michael Adams, attorney for Lambda Legal, said the case was in the talking stages for several years.
After Sept. 11, 2001, however, Lambda Legal attorneys said the injustice was apparent when individuals lost financial security because they weren't married to partners who were killed in the attacks.
Adams said he's confident the New Jersey legal system will provide a fair trial. He said the state's attorney general hasn't yet filed a response to the lawsuit, but is expected to file at the end of this month.
If New Jersey allows same-sex marriage, it will be the first state to do so. Adams said Vermont came close with its civil unions.
As an African-American, Alicia Toby said she understands the importance of civil rights.
"Having the state recognize same-sex marriage and giving us all the rights that the straight folks get, that will do it for us," said Toby's partner, Saundra Heath. "We are entitled to all of it. I want it all."