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Friday, November 10, 2006

Bill would allow gay marriage

Marriage for gay and lesbian couples would be legalized under a bill introduced Thursday in the Assembly, the opening salvo in what promises to be a hotly debated issue in the months ahead.

The Civil Marriage and Religious Protection Act requires government officials to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but makes clear religious institutions are not required to formalize the unions. Steven Goldstein, chairman of Garden State Equality, the leading gay-rights group in the state, said the bill emphasizes what his organization "and the rest of the progressive community have said from the very start."

"Marriage equality in New Jersey would in no way force any religion or any member of the clergy to perform any marriage ceremony that violates their own conscience," he said. "Marriage, in fact, is a civil institution where you get a government license and not just a religious institution so indeed this bill underscores that religious marriages would not be affected by this."
The bill defines marriage as "the legally recognized union of two consenting persons in a committed relationship." It is the first measure to surface since the state Supreme Court unanimously decided last month that gay couples are entitled to all the benefits of marriage, yet disagreed over use of the word marriage itself...

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