New Jersey legalizes gay unions

By Patricia J. Sheehan
November 17, 2006


The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that homosexual couples will be granted the same rights as heterosexual couples, on Wednesday, Oct. 25. However, the choice to making same-sex unions legal will be up to the lawmakers.

According to the Washing Post, the new law allows same-sex couples healthcare benefits if a partner is a state worker as well and the right to inherit possessions if the deceased partner leaves behind no will. However, other liberties such as rights concerning adoption and taxes and using the word “marriage” are still being discussed.

Rochelle Beaser, professor of history and political science, says that the word marriage may take on a new definition altogether.

“Society changes and I think marriage and the definition of marriage are about to change. The issue is about legal rights of a partnership, to me, are much more significant than what we call it. I’m very anxious that everyone who forms a long-term partnership has legal rights for insurance, for death benefits and for things of that nature.”

“For me, personally it is not an important aspect but for many it is a very important aspect because they have a definition of what marriage is and they don’t want to change the definition,” Beaser said.

According to, the state of New Jersey is one of the five states in America that is without a law or Constitutional amendment that prohibits same-sex marriages. According to a survey by the American Community Survey, New Jersey was home to 20,677 homosexual couples last year.

The state of Pennsylvania forbids same-sex unions.

“New Jersey is a stepping stone,” said Matt Daniels, president of the Virginia-based Alliance for Marriage, “It’s not about New Jersey.”

Father Michael Bielecki, chaplin of Cabrini College, says that the Church may not be harsh as to the decision as one might think.

“The church is not trying to in any way put down human beings because of their sexual tendencies or their orientation and the Church would very much be against injustices towards people,” he said.

Bielecki also points out that society tends to forget about seeing the individual and focuses on that individual’s lifestyle.

“God didn’t make mistakes when he made people different from us. They are just different and many times that difference is a challenge for us to practice true Christian faith, true love towards others who are different,” Bielecki said.

The court gave state legislatures 180 days to compose a bill which would allow same-sex couples equal rights as heterosexual couples. However the debate over what to call the martial status still prevails between using the word “marriage” or “civil unions.”

In 1999 Vermont passed a similar law, which allowed same-sex couples the same benefits of heterosexual couples but denied the right to call the martial status marriage.

Some conservatives were outraged by the decision, including John Tomicki, executive director of the League of American Families which is a group opposed by same-sex marriages.

“We are saddened that the Supreme Court of New Jersey continues on a parade of legislating from the bench,” Tomicki said.

New Jersey senator Gerald Cardinale has proposed amendment opposing the civil union law. The amendment by Cardinale defines marriage as between a man and a women.

“The court is asking the legislature to make new laws and is prescribing what those laws can be,” Cardinale said. “That is absurd.”

Beaser points out that the world and its principals are changing. Perhaps 40 years ago, the issue of granting same-sex partnerships these liberties would have been entirely out of the question in the United States.

“The issue we have now is that the more we learn about sexual choice the more we seem to realize that it’s in more because people are hard-wired which makes the question about marriage a little bit different. Once it was against the law in many places to marry outside your race,” Beaser said.

These new laws are molding a new society. While Massachusetts allows residents to carry on a same-sex marriage, it does not allow non-residents to be legally married there if their home state forbids it. New Jersey may become the justice that many same-sex couples have hoped for and perhaps other states will soon follow in step.

“The sky didn’t fall,” said David Buckel, a lawyer at the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund. “People see that some families are helped and nobody else’s families are hurt.”

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Patricia J. Sheehan

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