LGBT rights in New Jersey

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LGBT rights in New Jersey
Map of USA NJ.svg
Same-sex sexual activity legal? Legal since 1978
Gender identity/expression Sex change recognized
Discrimination protections Sexual orientation and gender identity protections (see below)
Family rights
Recognition of
Civil unions since 2007, same-sex marriage since 2013
Adoption Same-sex couples may adopt jointly

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[edit]

Sodomy laws[edit]

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.[1]

Court decisions in New Jersey gradually restricted the application of sodomy laws to exclude first married couples[1] 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."[2] New Jersey repealed its sodomy law in 1978.[3]

Freedom of assembly[edit]

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.[4] In 1967, A state court invalidated this interpretation in One Eleven Liquors, Inc. vs. Division of Alcoholic Beverage Commission.[5]

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]

Marriage, as the popular vehicle of state recognition of relationships, is mentioned in 850 of New Jersey's statutes.[6] Marriage between persons of the same sex, however, are not mentioned in the statutes, which do not ban it either.[5] 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.[7] Same-sex couples legally married in another state or country may be divorced in New Jersey, a Superior Court ruled.[8]

New Jersey has provided benefits to same-sex partners of state employees since 2004.[9]

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.[10]

Adoption and parenting[edit]

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.[5]

Discrimination protections[edit]

Law Against Discrimination[edit]

New Jersey's Law Against Discrimination[11] was amended in 1991 to include "affectional or sexual orientation" and in 2006 to include "gender identity and expression"[12] 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.[5] The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination also protects individuals from discrimination based upon a perceived sexual orientation.[13] On July 27, 2015, the National Executive Board of the Boy Scouts of America, ratified a resolution that removes the national restriction on openly gay adult leaders and employees.[14]

Hate crimes and safe schools[edit]

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.[15] Anti-LGBT bullying is also prohibited in New Jersey schools, and all schools are required to post and distribute their anti-bullying policies.[16] The Pride Center of New Jersey opened its doors in 1994 support the social needs of the LGBT community and youth across the state. [17]

Conversion therapy[edit]

In June 2013, the New Jersey Legislature passed legislation making sexual orientation change efforts such as conversion therapy illegal when directed at minors.[18][19] Governor Chris Christie signed the legislation on August 19.[20] 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,[21] and again on appeal to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals on September 11, 2014.[22] They asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their appeal on December 3.[23] which it decline to do in May 2015.[24] 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.[25][26]

Gender identity birth certificates[edit]

Transgender persons may request an amended birth certificate with a corrected name and sex after undergoing sex reassignment surgery (SRS).[27]

On June 28, 2015, the New Jersey General Assembly passed (Senate by a vote of 30-6 and the House by a vote of 51-23) a bill to make it easier for people on the basis of gender identity and intersex status, access and/or change to their birth certificates without any surgery. Republican Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie as expected, did veto the bill on August 10, 2015. This is the second time he has vetoed the same bill, that was passed two years ago.[28][29][30] Three additional votes are required in the Assembly for a successful veto override to implement the legislation.[31][32] [33]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Painter, George (August 10, 2004). "New Jersey". The History of Sodomy Laws in the United States. Gay and Lesbian Archives of the Pacific Northwest. Retrieved June 29, 2009. 
  2. ^ Hickey, Adam (December 2009). "Between Two Spheres: Comparing State and Federal Approaches to the Right to Privacy and Prohibitions Against Sodomy" (PDF). Yale Law Journal. 111 (993): 1023–1024. Retrieved June 29, 2009. 
  3. ^ William N. Eskridge, Dishonorable Passions: Sodomy Laws in America, 1861-2003 (NY: Penguin Group, 2008), 201n, available online. Retrieved April 9, 2011
  4. ^ Romano, Frank (August 1, 2008). "GAY HISTORY: The Manny's Den legal case". Out in Jersey magazine. Retrieved June 29, 2009. 
  5. ^ a b c d "III. Current New Jersey Law Pertaining to Sexual Orientation" (PDF). Final Report of the Task Force on Gay and Lesbian Issues. New Jersey Supreme Court. September 26, 2001. Retrieved June 29, 2009. 
  6. ^ "Lower-Court Loss in Lawsuit Seeking Marriage for Same-Sex Couples in New Jersey 'Propels Us Forward' To Higher Courts Where Case Will Be Decided, Lambda Legal Says". Lambda Legal. August 5, 2003. Archived from the original on November 27, 2009. Retrieved June 29, 2009. 
  7. ^ Roehr, Bob (December 20, 2006). "NJ Civil Union Bill Passes" (PDF). Windy City Times. Retrieved June 29, 2009. 
  8. ^ "ACLU-NJ Wins Case Allowing Same-Sex Couple To Divorce in NJ". American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey. February 6, 2009. Retrieved March 2, 2011. 
  9. ^ National Conference of State Legislatures: "States offering benefits for same-sex partners of state employees", accessed April 16, 2011
  10. ^ Bob Jordan, Asbury Park (N.J.) Press (October 18, 2013). "New Jersey court to allow same-sex marriages". Retrieved November 2, 2013. 
  11. ^ New Jersey Lawyer: "Discrimination", accessed June 19, 2012
  12. ^ "New Jersey Adds "Gender Identity and Expression" as a Protected Category Under State Civil Rights Law". Jackson Lewis LLP. December 20, 2006. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved June 25, 2009. 
  13. ^ "NJ Protects Perceived Sexual Orientation.]". 
  14. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on September 2, 2016. Retrieved 2015-08-10. 
  15. ^ Wiener, Robert (January 10, 2008). "Lawmakers pass hate-crimes bill". New Jersey Jewish News. Retrieved June 29, 2009. 
  16. ^ Sklar, Roberta (January 17, 2008). "New Jersey makes transgender-inclusion unequivocal in its hate crimes and safe schools laws". National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Retrieved June 29, 2009. 
  17. ^ "Pride Center of New Jersey". 2013. Retrieved July 27, 2016. 
  18. ^ "New Jersey poised to become second state to ban anti-gay therapy". Reuters. June 24, 2013. 
  19. ^ "N.J. Senate sends bill banning gay-to-straight 'conversion therapy' to Christie". June 27, 2013. 
  20. ^ "Chris Christie Signs Ban On Gay Conversion Therapy". Huffington Post. August 19, 2013. 
  21. ^ Johnson, Chris (November 9, 2013). "Court upholds N.J. ban on 'ex-gay' therapy". Washington Blade. Retrieved September 13, 2014. 
  22. ^ Voreacos, David (September 11, 2014). "New Jersey Ban on Gay-Conversion Therapy Upheld on Appeal". Bloomberg News. Retrieved September 13, 2014. 
  23. ^ Johnson, Chris (December 9, 2014). "Supreme Court asked to review N.J. ‘ex-gay’ therapy ban". Washington Blade. Retrieved December 9, 2014. 
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^ In February, State Superior Court Judge Peter F. Bariso Jr., sitting in Hudson County and overseeing the case, ruled people who provide gay-to-straight conversion therapy are committing fraud if they describe homosexuality as a mental disorder that can be cured.
  27. ^ "Sources of Authority to Amend Sex Designation on Birth Certificates". Lambda Legal. Retrieved August 3, 2009. 
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  33. ^ [6]