N.J. Says It Will Recognize Gay Marriages From Other States

Friday, February 16th 2007, 9:29 pm
By: News On 6

MOUNT LAUREL, N.J. (AP) _ Gay couples who legally married elsewhere will have all the rights of married people in New Jersey, but they can't call themselves married, the state's attorney general decided Friday.

New Jersey should consider those couples to be in civil unions rather than marriages, Attorney General Stuart Rabner said in the opinion for the state Department of Health and Senior Services, which is responsible for registering civil unions.

Civil unions, which will be available in New Jersey starting Monday, grant all the benefits of marriage to gay couples.

Gay rights activists were happy to have the clarity and to learn that the civil unions will be granted automatically, but said recognizing marriages as civil unions is unfair and possibly discriminatory.

``That seems like the fairest thing under the circumstances,'' said Joan Hervey, a Plainfield woman who went to Canada to marry her partner. ``It will be perfect once they call it marriage.''

Steven Goldstein, the executive director of Garden State Equality, said he expects lawsuits over the issue.

Gay couples married in Massachusetts, Canada, the Netherlands, South Africa and Spain will be recognized as civil union partners, as will couples who have entered into civil unions in Vermont and Connecticut. Domestic partners in California _ where domestic partnership works much like a New Jersey civil union _ will also be considered civil unions.

Couples who have domestic partnerships with lesser obligations and benefits than marriage, such as those in Maine and Washington, D.C., will be considered domestic partners in New Jersey.

Domestic partnerships, available in the Garden State for nearly three years and offer only a handful of the rights and responsibilities of marriage.

New Jersey lawmakers voted in December to create civil unions after the state Supreme Court in October forced their hand. The court ruled in favor of extending all the rights of same-sex couples, but left implementation to lawmakers.