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NJ legislature approves civil union bill

Gay and lesbian couples in New Jersey will have now be able to have marriage equality — on paperwithin The Garden State.

Ordered by New Jersey’s highest court to offer marriage or its equivalent to gay couples, the Legislature voted Thursday to make New Jersey the third state to allow civil unions.

Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine said he would sign the measure, which would extend to same-sex couples all the rights and privileges available under state law to married people. The bill passed the Assembly 56-19 and the Senate 23-12.

“Love counts,” Democratic Assemblyman Wilfredo Caraballo, a chief sponsor of the bill, said as the debate opened. “The gender of whom one loves should not matter to the state.”

But Republican Assemblyman Ronald S. Dancer said: “It’s my personal belief, faith and religious practice that marriage has been defined in the Bible. And this is one time that I cannot compromise my personal beliefs and faiths.”

The fight for marriage will continue. This is a big step toward equal protection under the law, but as we all know, getting a civil union recognized as equal in the real world will be a challenge — and it will be challenged.  Lambda Legal already expects it.

“Although same-sex couples in New Jersey are better off today than yesterday, they are still not equal to other couples. Their relationships will likely continue to be disrespected. By passing a law that marks same-sex couples as inferior, the government has paved the way for others to discriminate against them.

Just as we saw happen with couples whose domestic partnerships were not recognized, so too are we likely to see similar hardships for couples in civil unions. It is important for those couples who encounter trouble to call the Lambda Legal Help Desk at 212-809-8585 x235 or toll-free at 866-542-8336.”

After all, recall the bigoted mayor of Bogota, NJ, Steve Lonegan, who said last week that he vowed not to perform civil unions for gay couples: “They’re going to have to put a gun to my head. Even then it’s going to be a challenge.”

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding

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