By Meg Jalsevac

TRENTON, New Jersey, December 15, 2006 ( – New Jersey’s legislature voted yesterday to label the same-sex partnerships allowed by the State’s Supreme Court earlier this year as ‘civil unions’, joining Vermont and Connecticut as the third state to legally recognize same-sex relationships as “civil unions”. All three states officially recognize same-sex ‘civil unions’, creating a relationship status that enjoys all the civil privileges of marriage but stops short of actually being called ‘same-sex marriage’.

As previously reported by, on October 25 of this year, New Jersey’s Supreme Court voted that same-sex unions were to be officially recognized by the state. The Court ruled that “committed same sex couples must be afforded on equal terms the same rights and benefits enjoyed by opposite-sex couples under the civil marriage statutes.” The Court left it up to the legislature to determine if the unions would be referred to as ‘civil unions’ or ‘same-sex marriage’.

In an effort spearheaded by Senator Loretta Weinberg (D), the proposal passed the Assembly 56 to 19 and the Senate 23 to 12. The legislation will include ‘civil union’ status in all areas of state law that pertain to civil marriage including inheritance, divorce, custody and power of attorney.

The bill also mandates the creation of a commission to explore whether New Jersey should legalize same-sex marriage in the future. Steven Goldstein, director of the gay rights organization Garden State Equality, said that he thought that within two years homosexuals in New Jersey would be able to get married.

Although happy at what they see as a step to full marriage rights, some members of the homosexual community in New Jersey find the terminology ‘civil unions’ offensive. Goldstein said, “There are huge mixed emotions. The law didn’t go far enough and was not marriage equality.” They say that not referring to a same-sex union as a ‘marriage’ makes the union seem inferior to a legal marriage.

Weinberg said that she would have lobbied for calling the unions “spousal unions” instead of “civil unions” but she did not think that her fellow Senators would have voted for it. She also said that the terminology should be changed to “marriage” once the civil unions bill is in effect for long enough to study how successful its application is.

On the other hand, those who defend traditional marriage believe that allowing for ‘civil unions’, even if not officially labeled as a marriage, is whittling away at the establishment of traditional marriage. Speaking of the similar situation when Connecticut approved same-sex ‘civil unions’ in 2005, Glen Lavy, senior vice president of the Alliance Defense Funds’s Marriage Litigation Center, said that lawmakers believe that they “can protect marriage by including a statement that says marriage is only between one man and one woman in legislation that creates civil unions for same-sex couples. This is clearly naive, as proven by media reports of homosexual activist groups that are already stating that they intend to continue to push for full-fledged marriage rights.”

Lavy continued, “No one can legitimately conclude that these civil unions are anything but marriage with a different name. No matter what anyone calls it, marriage is, and always will be, a union between a man and a woman.”

During Massachusetts’s legal battle over “same-sex marriage”, the Massachusetts Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a forceful statement against the institution of ‘civil unions’ saying, “Protecting marriage is more than preserving a name.”

In 2004, the Vatican’s Cardinal Trujillo said that gay civil unions are “grave signs of dehumanization.”

New Jersey Governor, Jon Corzine is expected to sign the new bill into law. Corzine has said that he personally believes that marriage is between one man and one woman but that he would not oppose legislation that allowed for gay marriage should it come before him.

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