New Jersey civil union bill clears Legislature

December 14, 2006

Applauds Garden State Equality for strengthening the measure to better protect lesbian and gay families

Roberta Sklar, Director of Communications


 The New Jersey Legislature today passed a civil union bill by wide margins. The measure now moves to the governor’s desk, and Gov. Corzine has said he will sign the bill into law. The voluminous bill, introduced just 10 days ago, was pushed on to the floor of the houses of the Legislature with scant public review. The measure is in response to an Oct. 25 state Supreme Court ruling requiring New Jersey to extend the same rights and responsibilities of marriage to same-sex couples within 180 days. In its ruling, the court left it to legislators to determine whether same-sex unions were to be labeled “marriage” or something else.

The measure mandates the creation of a commission to monitor and ensure the law’s compliance with the Supreme Court’s directive, and unlike civil union laws in Connecticut and Vermont, the New Jersey legislation does not explicitly define marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

Statement by Matt Foreman, Executive Director
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

“It’s both a disappointing day and a great day. On the one hand, purely for political expediency, New Jersey’s political leaders crammed through the Legislature an inherently unequal civil union bill without even the semblance of thoughtful deliberation. On the other hand, gay and lesbian families in New Jersey will now have hundreds more rights and responsibilities than before and enjoy protections denied our families in 46 other states. This is an important step on the road to complete equality.

“This underscores that the progress we’ve made in the area of family recognition is nothing short of breathtaking. Just six years ago, the civil union debate in Vermont lasted months and nearly tore the state apart. Today, New Jersey can adopt a civil union law in less than two weeks, with minimal public rancor.

“We applaud the incredible work of Garden State Equality and its chairman, Steven Goldstein, for their incredible work, for ensuring the law requires the creation of a commission to monitor the law’s compliance of the court directive, and for keeping an insulting ‘marriage is only between a man and a woman’ provision out of the law.

“We look forward to working with Garden State Equality and our other allies to win marriage equality in the very near future.”

Task Force involvement in New Jersey

Over the last year, the Task Force has worked in partnership with Garden State Equality — New Jersey’s leading LGBT rights group — and other national colleague organizations to advance marriage equality. Last spring, three Task Force trainers led an intensive training for more than 40 Garden State Equality activists in the fundamentals of effective advocacy for marriage equality. Also last spring, the Task Force’s Policy Institute organized a forum with the Liberation in Truth Unity Fellowship Church in Newark, N.J., on how the marriage issue affects black same-sex couples and their families.

After the New Jersey Supreme Court decision mandated legislative action, Task Force staff assisted in pulling together national and statewide groups and drafted an action plan for the effort in New Jersey to secure marriage equality. The Task Force then dispatched organizers to help Garden State Equality launch its campaign, train volunteers and activate Task Force supporters in New Jersey. The effort on the part of the Task Force and other organizations included field work that generated thousands of phone calls and postcards to legislators from voters in support of marriage equality.

The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.