- The Washington Times - Monday, February 19, 2007

New Jersey yesterday became the third state after Vermont and Connecticut to allow homosexual couples to unite in civil unions.

The law is a “big, giant step forward,” said state Sen. Loretta Weinberg, a lead sponsor of the law that took effect at midnight.

The first civil-union license went to Steven Goldstein and Daniel Gross, who had previously “married” in Canada and obtained a civil union in Vermont, and were reaffirming their vows. Mr. Goldstein is the leader of Garden State Equality, a homosexual rights advocacy group. Mr. Gross is an executive at Goldman Sachs investment firm.

Other New Jersey same-sex couples without prior civil union or marriage licenses could apply for their licenses yesterday, but must wait three days to hold ceremonies.

The new law gives same-sex couples the state benefits and rights granted to married couples, such as rights governing inheritance, property ownership, adoption, medical decision-making, hospital visitation and child custody.

Outside of New Jersey, most states and the federal government will not recognize the new unions. This means a civil-union partner will not be entitled to a deceased partner’s Social Security benefits.

However, according to a Feb. 16 opinion by state Attorney General Stuart Rabner, New Jersey will recognize most out-of-state, government-sanctioned, same-sex unions — regardless of what they are called — as civil unions. Thus, same-sex couples with civil unions from Vermont and Connecticut; domestic partnerships from California; “marriages” from Massachusetts, Canada, the Netherlands, Belgium, South Africa and Spain; and marriage-like unions from Britain, New Zealand, Iceland and Sweden will be treated as civil unions in New Jersey, Mr. Rabner said.

Couples with other domestic partnerships — including those from the District, Maine and Hawaii — will be treated as valid under New Jersey’s 2004 domestic-partnership law.

The civil-union law was enacted in December, two months after the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that although there was no right to homosexual “marriage” in the state constitution, homosexual couples had a right to the same benefits as married couples.

The issue is far from settled: Garden State Equality has pledged “to win marriage-equality legislation in the next two years or less” and make New Jersey the second state after Massachusetts to legalize same-sex “marriage.” But traditional-values groups, such as the New Jersey Family Policy Council, say the new law still threatens traditional marriage and are urging lawmakers to pass a constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

Also, there is no residency requirement to obtain a civil union in New Jersey, and at least one city official has reported receiving a flurry of requests from out-of-state couples asking how to get a license. Opponents of same-sex “marriage” fear homosexual couples from other states could obtain licenses in New Jersey and sue their home states to recognize the civil unions.

c This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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