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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

NJ Civil Unions May Become Law Late This Week
by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff

(Trenton, New Jersey) New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine said Monday that his legal team is reviewing the civil unions bill passed last week by the legislature and hopes to sign it late this week, possibly on Thursday.

But Corzine said he already has some concerns about the legislation. Like laws involving marriage mayors are not obligated to conduct civil union ceremonies. Corzine said he is concerned some mayors will use the provision to refuse to unite gay couples.

Already a number of mayors have warned they won't take part in civil unions (story) Legal experts have told the governor that although mayors can refuse to perform ceremonies if they conduct marriages but refuse civil unions they could be prosecuted under the state's human rights law. Corzine Monday said he still has concerns.

Once Corzine signs the bill it will go into effect 60 days later.

Corzine had originally been expected to sign the bill last week which would have meant same-sex couples could exchange vows on Valentine's Day. But the governor in a surprise announcement said he wanted the bill examined by his legal advisors "to make sure that what we think we’re getting is what we’re getting.” (story)

Corzine said Monday he expected that review to be completed by Thursday.

The bill passed the New Jersey Legislature last Thursday afternoon. (story)

It offers couples who register most state benefits and protections currently available to opposite-sex couples, including the right to health insurance through a partner’s employer.

But it does not provide any of the benefits of marriage under federal law, and it still could cost same-sex couples more than marriage couples for health insurance. (story)

The bill also contains a provision establishing a commission that will investigate how civil unions fall short of marriage and report back to the legislature in six months.

LGBT rights groups in the state believe the legislation is a stepping stone to full marriage. Garden State Equality said it is confident same-sex couples will be able to marry in the state within two years.

The legislation came about as a result of an October ruling by the New Jersey Supreme Court that same-sex couples should have access to the same rights and benefits as married couples. Whether to call those rights marriages, civil unions or something else was left up to lawmakers.

©365Gay.com 2006

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