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N.J. legislators pass same-sex civil unions bill

TRENTON, N.J. (BP)–The New Jersey legislature passed a same-sex civil unions bill Dec. 14, sending the legislation to the governor and moving the state one step away from becoming the third nationwide to legalize such unions for homosexual couples.

Passage came nearly two months after the New Jersey Supreme Court ordered legislators either to legalize “gay marriage” or civil unions, which grant same-sex couples all the legal benefits of marriage except the title. The General Assembly and the Senate chose civil unions, and New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine, a Democrat, has indicated he will sign the bill into law.

It passed the Assembly 56-19 and the Senate 23-12.

Adoption of the new law would be both a win and a loss for homosexual activists, who had asked the high court to legalize “gay marriage” outright. Once the court declined, they hoped to persuade legislators to do so. Justices gave legislators six months to act. In the end, legislators needed less than a third of that time.

“The court’s decision in Lewis v. Harris gave the New Jersey legislature an historic opportunity to deliver equality, dignity and fairness to families,” David Buckel, an attorney with the homosexual group Lambda Legal, said in a statement. “There is no reason to enact civil unions other than to send the message that our families are not worthy of equality. That unprincipled message harms same-sex couples, their children and ultimately all of New Jersey.”

Corzine’s signature would cap what has been a disappointing year for homosexual activists. Three state supreme courts — New Jersey’s, New York’s and Washington’s — all declined to legalize “gay marriage.” Another eight states adopted constitutional amendments protecting the natural definition of marriage.

Nevertheless, the New Jersey bill would place the state alongside two others — Connecticut and Vermont — that also recognize civil unions. California has a similar law but calls it domestic partnerships.

New Jersey legislators rushed the bill through committees with the goal of passing it before year’s end. Conservatives labeled the civil unions bill a “fake marriage” bill and called for alternatives, but to no avail. The high court’s decision, in fact, was both a win and a loss for conservatives, too. Although justices didn’t legalize “gay marriage” — which many conservatives feared they would — they nonetheless forced the legislature to pass a bill further redefining the family.

The conservative New Jersey Family Policy Council (NJFPC) asked the legislature instead to adopt a bill that would grant marital benefits to any two people living together, such as two sisters.

“This was done in Hawaii as the first marriage battleground state and it appears to have worked quite well,” NJFPC President Len Deo told legislators during a committee hearing. “Why shouldn’t we have the ability to debate both solutions to a very complex problem?”

Deo further said any bill should include provisions protecting religious freedom and protecting the natural definition of marriage. Republicans failed Dec. 14 to amend the civil unions to protect marriage.

“As the bill currently stands, without a clear definition of what marriage is, the union of one man and one woman, ultimately this will invite this legislation to return to the [New Jersey] Supreme Court, because it offers no reason for protecting marriage as a separate legal status,” he said.

Lambda Legal, which was part of the original lawsuit, said the legal battle is far from over. Steven Goldstein, chairman of Garden State Equality, a homosexual group, agreed.

“Mark my words, New Jersey will see the marriage equality law passed by this legislature within the next year or two,” he said, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Compiled by Michael Foust. For more information about the national debate over “gay marriage,” visit http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage

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