New Jersey's "Bold and Sweeping" Gay Marriage Decision

Compared to New York State's anti-gay marriage decision this summer, which a Times' news story called "a shocking insult to gay rights groups."

The New Jersey victory for gay marriage leads Thursday's paper, as the state's highest court ruled that gay couples are entitled to the same legal rights as heterosexual couples, saying only that the state legislature must decide whether or not to term those gay unions "marriages."

There's a definite contrast in tone between the paper's coverage of the victory for gay marriage in New Jersey and the paper's shocked and hurt response to gay marriage's defeat in New York State this summer. On both occasions, the paper focused on the concerns and opinions of "gay rights" groups, not their "conservative" opponents.

In "New Jersey Court Backs Full Rights For Gay Couples," David Chen writes: "New Jersey's highest court ruled on Wednesday that gay couples are entitled to the same legal rights and financial benefits as heterosexual couples, but ordered the Legislature to decide whether their unions must be called marriage or could be known by another name.

"In a decision filled with bold and sweeping pronouncements about equality, the New Jersey Supreme Court gave the Democratic-controlled Legislature 180 days to either expand existing laws or come up with new ones to provide gay couples benefits including tuition assistance, survivors' benefits under workers' compensation laws, and spousal privilege in criminal trials....And by issuing a nuanced and complicated 90-page ruling that left observers struggling to declare who won and who lost, the court may have neutralized gay marriage as an issue in the Nov. 7 elections, when eight states will consider ballot measures to ban same-sex marriage.

"'The decision certainly minimizes what the radical right thought they might have had as a mobilizing tool in the last days of the election,' said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay advocacy organization."

By contrast, groups on the other side get an ideological warning label slapped on them: "But conservative groups opposed to same-sex marriage blasted the ruling as an example of the justices essentially trading judicial robes for legislative pens."

Here'show the Times' Patrick Healy treated the New York State ruling against gay marriagein July. Note the absence of flattering terms like "bold" and "nuanced," which the Times applied to yesterday's pro-gay marriage decision out of Trenton.

"Yesterday's court ruling against gay marriage was more than a legal rebuke, then - it came as a shocking insult to gay rights groups. Leaders said they were stunned by both the rejection and the decision's language, which they saw as expressing more concern for the children of heterosexual couples than for the children of gay couples. They also took exception to the ruling's description of homosexuality as a preference rather than an orientation."

On Thursday, the Times' Tina Kelley reported from Newark, where some of the plaintiffs were awaiting the announcement. "Some of the 13 plaintiffs clasped hands, hard, and fidgety children were somehow kept quiet. For about an hour, they waited nervously for news of the New Jersey Supreme Court's decision in Lewis v. Harris, their four-year-old lawsuit seeking the right to marry. Soon, there were sure to be hugs all around, either in joy or in sorrow.' Her story, "Hopeful Plaintiffs See Move From 'Second-Class' Status," looks at things from the point of view of the gay activists - the only opposing views in Kelley's story came from gays who thought the ruling didn't go far enough.