A U.S. Supreme Court ruling involving same-sex couples saved John Schultz $16,000 on Wednesday.
That’s the amount the 71-year-old Atlantic City resident pays annually for the $1 million life insurance policy he took out to ensure that if he died, his partner of 25 years, Gary Hill, 55, could pay the estate taxes and stay in their Pacific Avenue home.
Wednesday’s ruling that invalidated parts of the federal Defense of Marriage Act would allow Hill to inherit the property untaxed, as would happen with a heterosexual married couple.
“I’m canceling that insurance policy,” Schultz said Wednesday. “For years, Gary and I worked to pay taxes, and we paid taxes like anybody else. Why shouldn’t we get the benefits like anybody else?”
Like Schultz, gays in New Jersey and their advocates were sorting out what the court’s ruling means for them in one of the seven states that does not recognize gay marriage while offering gay couples many of the same legal protections. A separate, more limited Supreme Court ruling Wednesday also effectively struck down California’s ban on same-sex marriages.
Lawyers in a same-sex marriage case in New Jersey said the court ruling showed the state civil union law effectively denied more than 1,000 federal rights to gay couples. They said they plan a new court filing next week in the ruling’s wake.
Lambda Legal lawyer Hayley Gorenberg said a hearing on the matter has been scheduled for August, after a conference call with a judge and state attorneys Wednesday afternoon. She is one of the lead attorneys in a case that argues the state’s civil union laws do not follow a 2006 state Supreme Court ruling that said gay and heterosexual couples were entitled to the same legal protections.
Len Deo, president of the anti-gay marriage New Jersey Family Policy Council, said he believes the couples are still receiving those rights. Wednesday’s Supreme Court ruling, he said he believes, allows states to choose how to define marriage.
The state Attorney General’s Office is defending the New Jersey law in court, and a spokesman declined comment on Wednesday’s ruling.
State lawmakers passed a bill last year to permit gay marriage, but Gov. Chris Christie, an opponent of gay marriage, vetoed it. Democratic state lawmakers used Wednesday’s decision to call for marriage equality.
Christie on Wednesday said he would veto a same-sex marriage bill again. Appearing on TownSquare Media’s “Ask the Governor,” he said he remains opposed to gay marriage but is willing to put the question to voters.
Sen. Barbara Buono, the Democrat running against Christie, asked for an override vote to be scheduled today, but state Senate President Steve Sweeney said that won’t happen.
While it is unclear what the ruling will ultimately mean for the state, locally, many gays said they were just glad for the decisions.
“I think it’s a great, great day in history for gays and lesbian people in the United States,” said Joel Ballesteros, 44, of Linwood.
He said the separate status of gay and lesbian couples struck home last year when his partner, Robert Thibodeau, 51, faced medical issues. Area hospitals accommodated them, they said, but Ballesteros said he realized they did not have to.
“Those are some of the important issues,” he said.
In Egg Harbor Township, Craig Gardner, 51, said he was thrilled by the ruling. Gay and lesbian couples were treated as separate and less than equal for a long time, he said.
“The country’s making progress, and it’s all about treating each other equally and with respect,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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