Civil Unions Start in New Jersey

By Christine Cupaiuolo — February 19, 2007

As of 12:01 a.m. Monday, New Jersey became the third state in the country to offer civil unions for same-sex couples. From The New York Times:

The Legislature modeled its civil union law on those of Vermont and Connecticut, which allow for same-sex couples to take another’s surname without a court hearing, be able to jointly adopt and be entitled to inheritances. California also allows civil unions, Hawaii and Maine offer limited rights to same-sex couples and Massachusetts is the only state that allows gay marriage. […]

Stuart J. Rabner, the state attorney general, said last week that couples who exchanged vows in states that have existing civil union laws were automatically entitled to the same rights in the Garden State. In addition, Mr. Rabner said that gay couples married in Massachusetts, Canada, the Netherlands, South Africa and Spain would also receive civil union rights in the state.

“The name of the relationship selected by other jurisdictions, however, will not control its treatment under New Jersey law,” Mr. Rabner said in a statement.

The first couple to be granted all the legal rights of marriage under the new law had already had a civil union in Vermont in 2002, but they wanted to be sure there was no doubt about their status in New Jersey.

“We’re scared that if there’s an emergency, and someone looks up whether we are civil unionized in New Jersey, who wants to go into an explanation that New Jersey automatically recognizes Vermont unions?” Garden State Equality Chair Steven Goldstein said. “It just seems safer to have the piece of paper from New Jersey.”

Unlike their first civil union, which was a lavish affair, this time the couple kept it simple — and political. According to the Bergen Record:

The ceremony took place above a Blockbuster Video, in the non-descript office of state Senator Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck), who co-authored the civil union law and served as their witness.

And instead of reading wedding vows, the couple pledged to press on with their campaign to lobby for same-sex couples’ equal access to marriage.

“Do you, Daniel, vow to continue fighting for true marriage equality, so that couples like you can legally marry in the state of New Jersey one day soon?” Rabbi Elliott Tepperman asked, in a twist that was not written by Trenton legislators.

“I do,” said Daniel Gross, as did Goldstein.

Here’s more close-up coverage from

Now, about those public displays of affection

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