Walpin said the word “marriage” matters. The federal government, under the Windsor decision, “will grant rights to people who are legally married, thus anyone in New Jersey who cannot get legally married is being legally denied some of these thousand federal benefits, making it clear that civil unions are not giving us the same protections.”
“We are just thrilled,” she added. “What we will probably do is get married the day we are allowed and then have a banquet and reception later. We are just thrilled.”
Sarah and Suyin Lael, of Dayton, were plaintiffs in Lewis v. Harris. They called the decision an important one, but also said it was too long in coming.
“I was really excited,” Suyin Lael said. “I was cautiously excited, given way things have been going. I have expected pushback, but this is progress. When we first got involved in this process, our oldest daughter was maybe 2 or 3. She was really young.
“I am optimistic and I hope that the change comes quickly and that there continues to be momentum in a positive direct. All families need rights and protection.”
Sarah Lael said the last seven years -- since Lewis v. Harris was decided -- showed that anything short of marriage leaves same-sex couples at a disadvantage. Sarah Lael carries the health insurance for the entire family through her employer and, because the federal government did not recognize their union -- they were married in Massachusetts and have a civil union in New Jersey -- they had to pay taxes on the employer’s contribution as though it were income. Even with the DOMA ruling, she said, it is unclear how their Massachusetts marriage will be treated and whether they will need to file to be married in New Jersey.
“Those things make a big difference,” Sarah Lael said. “Having this as extra income, the health coverage added as income, has had a tremendous impact [financially].”
Maureen Killian and Cindy Meneghin were plaintiffs in both the Lewis and the Garden State Equality cases and have been together for 39 years. They say there are both practical and personal issues that they have faced over the years because they have not been able to marry legally in New Jersey.
“We’re high school sweethearts,” Meneghin said. “We’ve wanted to get married since we were very young and now we’re pretty old. It is a little scary to think we have had to wait. We already have lived through cancer and a heart ablation. I walked Maureen through double knee replacement. We are thinking of our children graduating college. I feel as if we have been living a fortunate life against the gamble of not having the protection that comes with the marriage license.”
She said that they have done their best over the past 39 years to protect themselves, “spending thousands and thousand of dollars,” but nothing offers the same level of protection as a “$28 marriage license.”
“Without the license, every day that goes by, it gets more frightening,” she said.
Christie has only spoken once publicly about the ruling, saying during a national TV interview on Sunday that he believes the decision should be decided by referendum.
"What I would tell you is that I understand that good people of good will have a difference of opinion on this," he told. "And so my view is, put it on the ballot. Let the people decide."