New Jersey Gay Couples Anxious To Wed
by 365Gay.com from the Web, December 21, 2004
Trenton, NJ -- In the five months since New Jersey's domestic partner law went into effect nearly 2,700 couples have registered.
But, many others are waiting to see how a suit to gain full marriage rights plays out in the courts.
So far, 2,640 gay couples have signed up under New Jersey's Domestic Partnership Act according to the state Health Department which administers the law.
Another 42 unmarried heterosexual senior citizen couples also registered.
The domestic partnership law, passed in January, grants some legal rights to registered couples, including the ability to make medical decisions for each other.
It went into effect July 10.
The act also allows partners to have some joint rights in filing state taxes, to be exempt from state inheritance taxes in the case of a partner's death and to extend the benefits given to state employees to cover domestic partners.
The law also covers unmarried heterosexual couples ages 62 and older.
To register couples must bring government-issued identification and show proof of shared financial assets to a municipal registrar's office.
Of the couples who have registered, 1,582 are lesbian pairs and 1,058 are male couples.
But, Steven Goldstein, the chair of Garden State Equality, said he believes that is only the tip of the iceberg of same-sex couples wishing to tie the knot.
"We in the lesbian and gay community believe this is going to be the year that same-sex couples will be able to marry in the state of New Jersey," said Goldstein looking ahead to 2005.
A lawsuit seeking the right to marry is being fought by seven same-sex couples.
A Superior Court judge ruled that there is no inherent right in the state Constitution permitting same-sex marriage in New Jersey and the case is currently before the Court of Appeals.
Earlier this month three appeals court judges heard from both sides in the issue.
"The New Jersey Constitution promises that everyone will be treated equally, but that promise won't be real until loving, committed same-sex couples can marry," David Buckel, Lambda Legal's Marriage Project Director and the lead attorney on the case told the judges.
"That is what is called separate but equal. We have learned that is inherently unequal."
Assistant Attorney General Patrick de Almeida said, "It is the court's responsibility to uphold the traditions in this country, which is to limit marriage to one man and one woman."
It is expected the suit will wind up in the New Jersey Supreme Court.