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Friday, February 09, 2007

Problems Arise In NJ Civil Unions Form
by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff

(Trenton, New Jersey) With just over a week before same-sex couples in New Jersey can begin applying for civil union licenses the state has begun distributing to local clerks the forms to be used and LGBT rights groups are not happy with the wording.

Garden State Equality and the American Civil Liberties Union in a letter to state authorities say same-sex couples are being asked more probing questions than are opposite-sex couples applying for marriage licenses.

"Currently, the proposed Application for Civil Union/Reaffirmation of Civil Union License form requires much more information of an applicant than does a marriage application form; yet the State has just as much interest in knowing whether a partner to a heterosexual marriage has previously been in, or still is in, a civil union or domestic partnership, and knowing if a person seeking a civil union has previously been married," the letter says.

The two groups also complain that they were led to believe the civil union application would be on the same form as that used for marriage licenses. And they say the wording is confusing.

Specifically they point to unclear questions about previous relationships and the section on "reaffirmations" of civil unions from outside the state. The state already has decided that civil unions from Vermont and Connecticut will be recognized.

"The category “Domestic Status” on the application form is incomplete and unintentionally insensitive in omitting the category 'currently in a domestic partnership,.'" the letter notes. "We anticipate that most, if not all, couples registered under New Jersey’s domestic partnership law will seek to enter a civil union in the State. Domestic-partnered couples should not be asked to checkoff “single/never married” because these couples, under the New Jersey domestic partnership law, already are not legally single, and don’t consider themselves single."

A spokesperson for the attorney general's office said Thursday that the office is looking at the letter and acknowledged "there are a few very minor things that need changing in the form."

The civil-union law takes effect Feb. 19 - President's Day. Some municipalities have said they plan to open that day to process civil-union applications.

After the forms are filled out there is a 72-hour waiting period before a ceremony can be conducted.

Last October the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled same-sex couples must have all the rights of marriage.

The Court gave the New Jersey State Legislature 180 days to act on the decision to grant same-sex couples the rights and benefits enjoyed by different-sex married couples but left it up to the legislators to decide whether to call it marriage or civil unions. (story)

The legislature opted for civil unions.

©365Gay.com 2007

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