UNION COUNTY—The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders passed a resolution in favor state legislation that would guarantee equal marriage rights for same-sex couples in New Jersey during its regular meeting on Thursday, Dec. 17.
“A marriage is a marriage, plain and simple,” said Freeholder Chairman Alexander Mirabella. “This is a matter of basic civil rights and I am proud that my colleagues on the Freeholder Board have added Union County to the growing number of jurisdictions taking the lead on this important issue.”
Eight members of the nine-member Freeholder Board were present for the vote. All eight voted in favor.
If the state legislation passes, New Jersey would join several other states with marriage equality laws. Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts and Vermont currently protect equal marriage rights. A New Hampshire law will take effect early in 2010, and the City Council of Washington D.C. just voted for legislation that is expected to become law in 2010.
The proposed bill is called the New Jersey Freedom of Religion and Equality in Civil Marriage Act, which is sponsored by Democratic power broker, state Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union). It would provide for equal access to obtain a civil marriage certificate, but does not affect religious ceremonies. State lawmakers are expected to take the legislation under consideration early in 2010.
The proposed legislation is a response to shortcomings in current New Jersey law, which established a separate class o£ “civil unions” for same-sex couples. In theory, civil unions provide equal rights as guaranteed by the New Jersey state constitution. However, mandatory reviews determined that in practice the civil union law resulted in continued discrimination and second tier status for same-sex couples.
The bill to redefine marriage may not have the votes necessary to pass, but Gov. Jon Corzine has indicated that he would sign it into law if it clears the legislature. Gov.-elect Chris Christie opposes the bill and would likely veto it if supporters can not pass it before the end of the current legislative session.
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