Couples Sue New Jersey to Force Recognition of Gay Marriage

by Beverly A. Pekala on June 29, 2011

Seven gay and lesbian couples brought suit against New Jersey to force the state to recognize gay marriage,  arguing that the state’s civil union law was intended to provide gay couples with the same legal rights as married couples, but that it does not do so. 

Civil unions first became legal in New Jersey in 2007, but last year, prior to Governor Christie taking office, the state Senate failed to pass legislation legalizing same-sex marriage. Gay rights proponents again suffered defeat when the state Supreme Court declined considering a case involving legal rights for gay couples.

Since civil unions were first offered in New Jersey , the state has seen 5,400 couples joined in civil unions. As expected, lawsuits have been filed across the country involving civil unions and gay marriages. Gay rights advocates argue that it is difficult to understand the term “civil unions” and the rights and responsibilities afforded under civil union laws. Conversely, the term “marriage” is widely understood, both practically and legally, according to gay rights supporters. Therefore, designating the relationship a “marriage” is said to reduce the inherent unfairness caused by civil unions laws as written or by civil unions laws as understood or as misunderstood.

Governor Christie has said his state will defend the existing civil unions law, and that he’s willing to add further protections to the existing civil unions law. The Governor held firm to his position that marriage is an institution between one man and one woman and should not be extended to gay and lesbian couples.

Civil unions are legal in Illinois , and in the following states:

Vermont, Connecticut , New Jersey , New Hampshire , Hawaii and Delaware

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