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Same-sex marriage decision not an end to legal disputes

Same-sex couples in New Jersey and across the nation are celebrating the recent Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage that follows in the wake of numerous state legalization and federal recognition. Despite the fact that same-sex marriages have been legal in New Jersey since 2013, those marriages made legal in one state have gone unrecognized when couples moved to other states that forbid the practice. The Supreme Court decision in Obergefell vs. Hodges means that all states must recognize and allow same-sex marriages.

One question answered by the court concerned whether the Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection clause was applicable. The case specifically concerned a same-sex couple who were married in Maryland and then moved to Ohio where same-sex marriage was not allowed. The issue involved whether the lead plaintiff in the case was entitled to be listed as the surviving spouse of his deceased partner.

A Supreme Court decision from 2013 provided the backdrop for the more recent case. In United States vs. Windsor, the court found that federal benefits for married couples apply equally regardless of the sex of spouses. This case extends the federal requirement for marriage recognition to all states. While celebrating the decision along with President Obama, the U.S. Attorney General remarked that there was "still more work to do."

Though recognition of same-sex marriage is now a requirement of the states, it is unclear to what extent the states will go, or be forced to go, to secure all the rights, such as anti-discrimination protection, afforded heterosexual couples. Some matters, such as adoption, child custody and other domestic issues, will be handled in part by family law courts. In cases of same-sex separation, adoption, divorce and other legal disputes, parties may benefit from access to New Jersey attorneys with experience in these types of family law matters.

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