Postive Developments In New Jersey

Faced with a mandate from the State Supreme Court, the New Jersey legislature yesterday passed a bill authorizing civil unions that give gay and lesbian couples the same rights as married couples:

NEW YORK, Dec. 14 — With a mandate from New Jersey’s highest court to offer gay couples the same rights as heterosexuals, the state legislature voted Thursday to create civil unions but stopped short of using the word “marriage.”

Gov. Jon S. Corzine (D) has said he will sign the bill into law, making New Jersey the third state, after Vermont and Connecticut, to offer civil unions, which extend to gay men and lesbians all the rights state law affords married people but give them a separate status.

Corzine, who does not support same-sex marriage, will review the details “sooner rather than later,” a spokesman said.

The proposal passed the state Assembly 56 to 19 and the Senate 23 to 12. During the Senate debate, Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D), the prime sponsor of the bill, suggested that the legislature might in the future change the term “civil union” to “marriage.”

In the end, the name doesn’t really matter, though. What matters is that the state will no longer be denying an entire class of people the right to associate with each other in the way they desire. While not perfect, it is certainly an move in the right direction.