Steven Goldstein, chairman of Garden State Equality, a plaintiff in a lawsuit filed in New Jersey Superior Court, labeled the state's civil union law a "wall dividing the moral fabric of the state."
Then, borrowing from former U.S. President Ronald Reagan, Goldstein said, "New Jersey, tear down that wall."
The suit, which also includes as plaintiffs seven gay couples and several of their children, asserts the state's civil unions law, which the legislature approved, does not guarantee the same rights afforded heterosexual married couples, The (Newark) Star-Ledger reported.
The suit notes the state Supreme Court in 2006 ruled same-sex couples have the same rights as heterosexual married couples, but let the Legislature decide how to achieve that equality. The civil unions law contains the same civil rights for gay couples in civil unions and for married heterosexual couples, The Star-Ledger said.
But confusion about what constitutes a civil union persists among gays trying to, say, visit partners in hospitals or make medical decisions for them, leading to denial of their rights, plaintiffs argue.
A bid to legalize same-sex marriage fell short in the state Senate last year before Republican Gov. Chris Christie took office.
Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, a Mercer Democrat, introduced a gay marriage bill this month, but Christie has pledged to veto any same-sex measure that reaches him.
That prospect has prompted same-sex marriage backers to turn to the courts.
The lawsuit comes less than a week after the New York Legislature approval of landmark same-sex marriage legislation.