The Hotline notes that the New Jersey Supreme Court may be about to hand gay rights advocates a 'victory' on gay marriage. And judicial 'victories' for gay marriage go almost hand-in-hand with electoral victories for Republicans. Even in liberal New Jersey, a court decision to require gay marriage might energize Republicans to come to the polls to register their displeasure by voting against Menendez.
CROSSING OUR TRANSOM
On 10/26, the chief of justice of the New Jersey supreme court, Deborah T. Poritz, turns 70, and will retire.
Pending before her court at this writing is a potentially explosive same-sex marriage case. In '02, two gay couples sued New Jersey for denying them the right to marry. The Supreme Court finally heard oral arguments in Feb. It has yet to unveil its decision.
Consider the political repercussions if NJ becomes the second state in the country to legalize gay marriage.
Poritz's questions suggest she'll vote to expand the definition of marriage. If the court doesn't rule by next Thursday, they'll be forced to rehear the case with the new chief justice. Observers are fairly certain that the court, will, in fact, tender a decision by Oct. 26.
"The New Jersey Supreme Court is famously assertive and famously liberal," one court watcher e-mailed us. " On the other hand, they have also been accused of being attuned to political undercurrents -- think of the Torricelli decision."
Gay rights advocates are fairly optimistic about the case on its merits but worry about the backlash if the court rules before the election.
Be aware that there appears to be little difference between the Kean and Menendez positions on gay marriage. However, Kean reportedly support a state amendment to block gay marriage, while Menendez has no position on it, and has voted against the federal amendment.
Perhaps Menendez should use this time to figure out what his position on gay marriage is, so he doesn't accidentally tell different audiences different things.
With the Steele-Cardin race tied in the latest poll, Conrad Burns apparently closing the gap in Montana, and Harold Ford shooting himself in the foot, Democrats ought to be sweating a little bit about the improvmements that they've been counting on in the Senate this year.
Oh - but take this for what it's worth.
Update: A commenter clarifies that the Hotline has an important detail wrong: there is no requirement that the Supreme Court hand down its decision by October 26. Apparently, it is not unusual for decisions to be handed down after the session has closed. Thus it's unclear whether the decision will come before or after the election.
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