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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

219 Gay Couples United In First Month Of NJ Civil Unions
by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff
Posted: March 20, 2007 - 3:00 pm ET

(Trenton, New Jersey) In the first month that civil unions have been legal in New Jersey at least 219 same-sex couples have been united according to statistics released Tuesday by the state Health and Senior Services Department.

The figures show that at least one gay couple had applied for a civil union in each of new Jersey's 21 counties.

The Department's statistics cover the period from Feb. 19, when the law went into effect, until March 19.

In addition to the new applicants, at least 10 gay couples who entered into civil unions or marriages elsewhere have filed papers to reaffirm their relationships in New Jersey.

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. But, that say civil rights groups, amounts to separate but equal and are threatening to take the issue back to the Supreme Court.

Garden State Equality, New Jersey's statewide LGBT rights group called the numbers released by the state Tuesday "extremely low" but added it was not surprised.

"There’s a huge sense in the gay community that we’re going to win full marriage equality here soon," chair Steven Goldstein told the New York times.

"In the context of a civil rights movement, that means the next couple of years, given the momentum we have in the State Legislature. Couples are saying to themselves, ‘We’re going to get marriage anyway, why get civil unioned?" he said.

A bill to amend the civil union law and provide marriage has been filed in the legislature. Meanwhile, opponents of gay marriage are trying to get a proposed amendment on the ballot to ban gay marriage.

Democrats in both houses have said they would not post a vote for a constitutional amendment that would undermine the rights of same-sex couples.

While McHose and Doherty try to muster support in the legislature for an amendment the conservative New Jersey Family Policy Council is pushing its own petition drive to get a proposed amendment on the ballot.

The group says it has printed enough petitions for 300,000 names.

There are an estimated 20,000 same-sex couples living in New Jersey.

©365Gay.com 2007

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