Same-sex marriage in New Jersey
Civil union bill and law: 2006/7
Action by the government:
As noted previously, the Supreme Court of New Jersey
unanimously ruled that the equal
protection clause of the state constitution guarantees all of its
citizens equal protection of the laws, regardless of sex. Also, children
must receive equal protection, whether their parents are of the same sex or
opposite-sex. Thus existing laws regarding marriage were thus unconstitutional.
On 2006-DEC-14, both chambers of the New Jersey legislature considered a bill
to bring the laws regarding marriage in line with the requirements of the state
constitution by legalizing civil unions for same-sex couples. The bill states
that a same-sex couple entering into a civil union:
"shall have all of the same benefits, protections and responsibilities
under law, whether they derive from statute, administrative or court rule,
public policy, common law or any other source of civil law, as are granted
to spouses in a marriage." 3
obeyed their oath of office, which includes the obligation to follow the New
Jersey constitution. The vote was 59 to 19 in the Assembly and 23 to 12 in the
Senate in favor of the bill's passage. An redundant amendment that would have
defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman was defeated. That
amendment was unrelated to the civil union bill, because the bill did not use
the term "marriage," or refer to marriage in any way. A second
amendment by Senator Robert Martin (R) which would have legalized same-sex
marriage was also defeated.
The law gives gay couples the same state rights, responsibilities and
obligations as opposite-sex married couples have received in a number of areas:
adoption, inheritance, hospital visitation and medical decision-making. They are
not require to testify against a partner in state court.
The Family Research Council (FRC), a fundamentalist Christian group,
referred to this action as "New Jersey's 'Civil' War." They wrote that
the legislature has: "legitimizing a dangerous counterfeit at the expense of
traditional marriage." They said that the New Jersey legislators exhibited "cowardly
compliance" by creating "... a gutless precedent of surrendering the
constitutional role to judicial oligarchy, unchecked by and unaccountable to the
people." They apparently expected the legislators to violate their oath
of office and create a constitutional crisis in the state.
Governor Jon S. Corzine (D) signed the legislation into law on 2006-DEC-21
giving same-sex couples all of the state rights and responsibilities routinely
given to opposite-sex couples in the past. 8
"We must recognize that many gay and lesbian couples in New Jersey are in committed relationships
and deserve the same benefits and rights as every other family in this state."
The law came into effect on 2007-FEB-19. It gives same-sex couples the option of entering
into a civil union and receiving all of the state benefits and obligations of
marriage. They will not receive the over 1,000 federal benefits and obligations
of marriage as the FRC implied when they said that the bill "... grants
homosexual partners the same rights as married couples." Same-sex
couples will not be able to collect a deceased partner's Social Security
benefits. That is reserved to opposite-sex couples only.
There was a 60 day interval after the signing of the bill into law before
couples could obtain a civil union.
Reactions to the law:
|Veronica Hoff, 52, of Mount Laurel attended the bill signing. She said:
"It's a step forward, but it's not true equality." 1
|John Tomicki, president of the New Jersey Coalition to Preserve and
Protect Marriage said that a civil union is: |
"... same-sex marriage without the title. It uproots the cardinal
values of our culture." 1
|Robert Ellman of the Intrepid Liberal Journal wrote about
Governor Jon Corzine:|
"I must express appreciation however for his willingness to sign into
civil unions bill passed today by New Jersey's state legislature.
This will make New Jersey the third state, after Vermont and
Connecticut, to offer civil unions, which extend to gay men and lesbians
all the rights state law affords married people. Sadly the bill does not
recognize gay marriage."
"I don't blame homosexuals for wondering: 'Why can't we be granted the
same status?' They're right to feel that way and it's a disgrace gay
marriage is regarded with such vehemence. For the time being, homosexual
couples will at least have the same rights as married couples in New
Jersey. Hopefully, that is something to build on. 2
|Steven Goldstein, director of Equality New Jersey, said that
civil unions are a mixed blessing for same-sex couples in the state. There
is no guarantee that non-government entities would honor the decision.|
|David Buckel, marriage project director at Lambda Legal and lead
attorney on the Lewis v. Harris marriage lawsuit said: |
"By passing a law that marks same-sex couples as inferior, the
government has paved the way for others to discriminate against them."
|State Senator Loretta Weinberg
(D), a sponsor of the bill, said: "This should be called what it is —
'marriage'." She said that the title should be changed after some
time has passed during which legislators can study how the civil unions bill
works in practice. 4|
|Mayors in New Jersey are not required to marry
opposite-sex couples. But if they marry one couple, they have to be
available to marry all couples. There was some confusion about how this
policy would impact civil unions. Mayor Steve Lonegan of Bogota said
he would not perform civil unions. He said:|
"This is the first time in history an American is being told to
perform a ritualistic ceremony no matter what you believe in. I'm not
doing it. I'm daring them to make me do it."
|John Bohrer wrote on the Huffington Post:|
"Lonegan forgets that he is a civil servant, and is performing a
legal -- not religious -- function. Though, as it turns out,
right-wingers like Lonegan will be lending a hand to same-sex couples.
Challenging this discriminatory law could knock it down and accelerate
the pace at which New Jersey approaches marriage equality."
|To which "LittleBrother" responded:|
"One would wish that this nation long ago learned the hard lesson
that 'separate but equal,' no matter how conciliatory and win-win it
seems at first glance, is simply wrong and ultimately unworkable. It
belongs in the Museum of Fatally Flawed Misconceptions, next to the
flat-earth diagrams, apartheid, and 'don't ask, don't tell'."
"Maybe this abysmally reactionary, bigoted pipsqueak official is doing
civilization a favor by objecting to this lame faux-compromise before
the ink is even dry." 5
|On FEB-19, Ed Barocas, legal director of the American Civil Liberties
Union of New Jersey said:|
"It is a wonderful moment and a step toward equality. Yet it also marks a
sad and unfulfilling moment in the history of our state, as it is the day in
which we officially institutionalize discrimination." 9
|On FEB-23, Covenant News, a fundamentalist
Christian news agency reported on civil unions in New Jersey. We reprint
their abstract below to indicate the degree of anger and hatred expressed by
many social and religious conservatives against equal rights for gays,
lesbians and bisexuals: |
"Sodomites across New Jersey began claiming
the same legal rights as married couples early Thursday in ceremonies
that formalized their deviant behavior as civil unions. The state law
establishing civil unions for the lewd malefactors took effect Monday.
But because there is a 72-hour waiting period after applying for a
license, most abomination had to wait until Thursday to hold civil union
ceremonies. New Jersey is the third state in the nation to make a man's
wife equal to a cankered sodomite, by giving homosexuals the protections
and benefits of marriage. Vermont and Connecticut also offer civil
unions, and California offers domestic partnerships with similar
benefits. Massachusetts is the only state to allow sodomite
The law went into effect on 2007-FEB-19. Under New Jersey law, there is a
mandatory 72 hour waiting period between obtaining a license and actually being
civil unionized; this is the same interval as for opposite-sex couples getting
married. Since this was President's Day -- a state holiday -- couples were able first to be unionized
starting on Friday, FEB-23. The state does not
have a residency requirement for civil unions -- the same arrangement as for
marriages. So couples from out of state can come to New Jersey to be unionized.
Garden State Equality, a gay-positive agency promoting equality for gays and
lesbians, suggests that:
"After you get civil unioned, contact Garden State Equality immediately
should you ever find your civil union not recognized in New Jersey, whether
by a hospital, employer, public accommodation or any other institution. That
will help us demonstrate why we need real marriage equality." 6,7
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Tom Hester Jr., "N.J. governor signs gay civil unions law," Associated
Press, 2006-DEC-21, at:
- Robert Ellman, "New Jersey governor Jon Corzine to sign civil unions bill,"
Intrepid Liberal Journal, 2006-DEC-14, at:
- "N.J. lawmakers OK civil unions, not same-sex marriage," CNN.com,
- "New Jersey Governor Jon S. Corzine to Sign Bill Legalizing Gay Unions,"
Associated Press, 2006-DEC-15, at:
- John Bohrer, " NJ civil unions: Dead on arrival?" Huffington Post,
- "Garden State Equality's 'Practical Guide to Civil Unions'," WABC,
- Contact information for Garden State Equality is: Phone: 973.GSE.LGBT.
Contact@GardenStateEquality.org Address: Garden State Equality, 67
Church Street, Montclair, New Jersey 07042. You may donate online at
- Pete Winn, "Civil Unions not enough for New Jersey gays," Focus on the
Family, 2007-FEB-19, at:
- Ruth Padawer & William Lamb, "Gay couple marks milestone, then returns to
the campaign," Record, Northern New Jersey, 2007-FEB-20, at:
- "sodomites formalize civil unions in N.J.," Covenant News, 2007-FEB-22, at:
This is a temporary listing.
Copyright © 2006 to 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Parts originally written: 2006-DEC
Latest update: 2007-FEB-24
Author: B.A. Robinson