/ Yahoo! News
TRENTON, N.J. - New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine on Thursday signed a civil unions law giving gay couples all the rights and responsibilities — but not the title — of marriage.
The law makes New Jersey the third in the nation to institute civil unions and the fifth to offer same-sex couples some version of marriage. Connecticut and Vermont allow civil unions for gay couples. Massachusetts allows gay couples to marry; California has domestic partnerships that bring full marriage rights.
"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," Corzine said. About 150 people attended the bill signing.
The New Jersey law takes effect Feb. 19. Same-sex couples seeking civil unions will have to wait for three days for a ceremony to take place after registering their plans with local officials. That is the same waiting period for couples seeking marriage licenses.
"I believe very fundamentally in equal protection under the law and this legislation is about meeting that basic responsibility and honoring the commitments that individuals have made to each other," said Corzine, a Democrat.
Once joined in civil union, gay couples will enjoy adoption, inheritance, hospital visitation, medical decision-making and alimony rights and the right not to testify against a partner in court...RELATED VIDEO: CBS3, Philadelphia segment at the signing