LGBT rights in New Jersey

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in New Jersey have the same rights and responsibilities as heterosexuals. LGBT persons in New Jersey enjoy strong protection from discrimination, and have the right to marry as of October 21, 2013.

Since the late 1960s, state-sanctioned discrimination against LGBT people has become increasingly less acceptable. A series of court decisions have enlarged the areas of LGBT rights. LGBT people were allowed to gather in drinking establishments in 1967 and allowed to have intimate relationships in 1978. Antigay adoption policies by New Jersey's state welfare agency were dropped in 1997.

The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, amended to include sexual orientation and gender identity in 1991 and 2006, prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations. Criminal law deters bias-motivated crimes against LGBT individuals, and New Jersey schools are required to adopt anti-bullying measures that address LGBT students. In August 2013, Governor Chris Christie signed a bill into law prohibiting mental health providers from providing so-called "reparative therapy" to LGBT minors.

State-sanctioned discrimination

LGBT rights in New Jersey

Sodomy laws

Sodomy was a capital crime in New Jersey from when the Duke of York took control of the province from the Dutch. When the province was divided into East and West Jersey, the Quaker-dominated West maintained a criminal code that was silent on the issue of sodomy. After reunification and independence, New Jersey abrogated English law, but created its own statuary sodomy law, the penalties for which were often modified.

Court decisions in New Jersey gradually restricted the application of sodomy laws to exclude first married couples and then all heterosexual sexual relations. In the last court case in this series, State v. Ciuffini (1978), a state appellate court struck down the state's sodomy laws as unconstitutional, finding that "the individual's right of personal privacy and autonomy prevail[s] over the state's right to regulate private sexual conduct." New Jersey repealed its sodomy law in 1978.

Freedom of assembly

From its establishment in 1933, the New Jersey Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control regularly harassed LGBT bar patrons. It interpreted a regulation preventing licensees from serving "any known criminals, gangsters, racketeers, swindlers, prostitutes, female impersonators or other persons of ill repute" to revoke the liquor licenses of bars serving a predominantly homosexual customer base. In 1967, A state court invalidated this interpretation in One Eleven Liquors, Inc. vs. Division of Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

Recognition of same-sex relationships

Marriage, as the popular vehicle of state recognition of relationships, is mentioned in 850 of New Jersey's statutes. Marriage between persons of the same sex, however, are not mentioned in the statutes, which do not ban it either. The statutes were challenged in Lewis v. Harris (2006), where the legislature chose civil unions over marriage in the resulting mandate for equal rights and responsibilities of marriage for same-sex couples. Same-sex couples legally married in another state or country may be divorced in New Jersey, a Superior Court ruled.

New Jersey has provided benefits to same-sex partners of state employees since 2004.

Following a court decision on September 27 the state, as of October 21, 2013, recognized and performed same-sex marriages. Governor Chris Christie attempted to appeal this decision to the New Jersey Supreme Court but on October 19, 2013 the court turned down his appeal and the lower court's ruling stands.

Adoption and parenting

New Jersey never had a policy of denying adoption of children based on sexual orientation, however the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services had a policy of denying consent to joint adoption by unmarried couples. This was changed in 1997. The sexual orientation of parents is not necessarily considered a dispositive factor in considering the best interests of the child, be they prospective in adoption or current in child custody cases.

Discrimination protections

Law Against Discrimination

New Jersey's Law Against Discrimination was amended in 1991 to include "affectional or sexual orientation" and in 2006 to include "gender identity and expression" as prohibited bases of discrimination. The law prohibits discrimination in employment and public accommodations, which the New Jersey Supreme Court took to be as broad as including the Boy Scouts of America for its public dealings, which was reversed by the Supreme Court of the United States in Boy Scouts of America v. Dale. The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination also protects individuals from discrimination based upon a perceived sexual orientation.

Hate crimes and safe schools

Enhanced penalties are available for crimes committed in New Jersey with a bias based on the presumed sexual orientation and gender identity or expression of the victim, as well as sensitivity training sentencing options for judges. Anti-LGBT bullying is also prohibited in New Jersey schools, and all schools are required to post and distribute their anti-bullying policies.

Gender identity

Transgendered persons may request an amended birth certificate with a corrected name and sex after undergoing sex reassignment surgery (SRS). They also may enter marriages with persons of the same gender, after SRS (a.k.a. opposite their original gender), without the state recognizing that as a (void) same-sex marriage.

Conversion therapy

In June 2013, the New Jersey Legislature passed legislation making sexual orientation change efforts such as conversion therapy illegal when directed at minors. Governor Chris Christie signed the legislation on August 19. New Jersey was the second U.S. state to enact such legislation after California.

Represented by the Liberty Counsel, practitioners of conversion therapy, including the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality and the American Association of Christian Counselors, challenged the law in federal court. They lost in District Court on November 8, 2013, and again on appeal to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals on September 11, 2014. They asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their appeal on December 3. which it decline to do in May 2015. In another case heard in Hudson County, a judge ruled that those who promote the therapy by claiming to cure a disorder are committing fraud.

See also

  • Politics of New Jersey
  • Law of New Jersey
  • Rights and responsibilities of marriages in the United States
  • LGBT rights in the United States


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