(CBS/AP) NEWARK, N.J.
Diane Marini used to joke that she was always the bridesmaid and never the bride, because as a lesbian, she thought it was unlikely New Jersey would ever approve of same-sex marriage.
Still, she and her longtime partner, Marilyn Maneely, pushed for gay marriage. They were among seven couples who sued the state in 2002 for the right to marry. While their suit didn't lead to a gay marriage law, it led to New Jersey becoming the third state to offer civil unions to same-sex couples.
The civil unions law takes effect Monday, and some same-sex couples are planning ceremonies. It will be a bittersweet day for Marini, because Maneely died of Lou Gehrig's disease in 2005, more than a year before the case was decided.
I'm thrilled to have been part of the whole movement to show people who didn't know what marriage meant, why it was important," said Marini, who plans to attend one couple's ceremony next weekend and probably several more in the next few months.In October, the state Supreme Court ruled that New Jersey must extend all the rights of marriage to gay couples, but left it to state lawmakers to decide whether to provide those rights in the form of marriages, civil unions or something else. They opted for "civil unions," in part due to opposition from legislators who objected on religious grounds to calling it "marriage."
Marini, a construction contractor, and Maneely, a home-health nurse, were a couple for more than 14 years.
They met at a spiritual retreat in Ocean City. Marini, who had come out as a lesbian when she was a student at Parson's School of Design in New York in the early 1970s, saw it as a vacation. Maneely, a mother of five who knew how to cook for a big group, was there mostly to run the kitchen...
Editor's Note: All of us at savvyplanners.com extend our condolences, congratulations and gratitude. Thanks so much for your brave and noble contribution to 100 percent marriage equality in New Jersey. Thank you.