N.J. Takes 'Giant Step' with Civil-Union Law; Licenses Now Granted to Gays

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Byline: Cheryl Wetzstein, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

New Jersey yesterday became the third state after Vermont and Connecticut to allow homosexual couples to unite in civil unions.

The law is a "big, giant step forward," said state Sen. Loretta Weinberg, a lead sponsor of the law that took effect at midnight.

The first civil-union license went to Steven Goldstein and Daniel Gross, who had previously "married" in Canada and obtained a civil union in Vermont, and were reaffirming their vows. Mr. Goldstein is the leader of Garden State Equality, a homosexual rights advocacy group. Mr. Gross is an executive at Goldman Sachs investment firm.

Other New Jersey same-sex couples without prior civil union or marriage licenses could apply for their licenses yesterday, but must wait three days to hold ceremonies.

The new law gives same-sex couples the state benefits and rights granted to married couples, such as rights governing inheritance, property ownership, adoption, medical decision-making, hospital visitation and child custody.

Outside of New Jersey, most states and the federal government will not recognize the new unions. This means a civil-union partner will not be entitled to a deceased partner's Social Security benefits.

However, according to a Feb. 16 opinion by state Attorney General Stuart Rabner, New Jersey will recognize most out-of-state, government-sanctioned, same-sex unions regardless of what they are called as civil unions. Thus, same-sex couples with civil unions from Vermont and Connecticut; domestic partnerships from California; "marriages" from Massachusetts, Canada, the Netherlands, Belgium, South Africa and Spain; and marriage-like unions from Britain, New Zealand, Iceland and Sweden will be treated as civil unions in New Jersey, Mr. …