Please see this blog post for important information about this wiki.



Same-sex marriage in New Jersey has been legally recognized since October 21, 2013, the effective date of a trial court ruling invalidating the state's restriction of marriage to persons of different sexes.

In September 2013, a judge of the Superior Court ruled that as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court's June 2013 decision in United States v. Windsor, New Jersey's constitution requires the state to recognize same-sex marriages.[1] The Windsor decision held that the federal government was required to provide the same benefits to same-sex couples who were married under state law as to other married couples. Therefore, the state court reasoned in Garden State Equality v. Dow, because same-sex couples in New Jersey were limited to civil unions, which are not recognized as marriages under federal law, the state must permit civil marriage for same-sex couples. This ruling, in turn, relied on the 2006 decision of the New Jersey Supreme Court in Lewis v. Harris that the state was constitutionally required to afford the rights and benefits of marriage to same-sex couples. The Supreme Court had ordered the state legislature to correct the constitutional violation, by permitting either same-sex marriage or civil unions with all the rights and benefits of marriage, within 180 days. In response, the legislature passed a bill to legalize civil unions on December 21, 2006, which became effective on February 19, 2007.

In 2012, the New Jersey Legislature had passed a bill to legalize same-sex marriage, but it was vetoed by Governor Chris Christie.

Following the trial court decision in Garden State Equality v. Dow, the Christie administration asked the state Supreme Court to grant a stay of the decision pending appeal. On October 18, 2013, the Supreme Court unanimously denied the request for a stay.[2] Three days later, on the day the trial court ruling went into effect and local officials had begun issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and some wedding ceremonies had been performed, the Governor withdrew the state's appeal.[3] This action removed the last potential impediment to same-sex marriages in the state.

Domestic Partnerships

The New Jersey Legislature enacted the Domestic Partnership Act, P.L.2003, c. 246, on January 12, 2004, which came into effect on July 10, 2004. The law made domestic partnerships available to all same-sex couples, as well as to different-sex couples aged 62 and older. The domestic partnership statute provides "limited health care, inheritance, property rights and other rights and obligations" but "does not approach the broad array of rights and obligations afforded to married couples." [4] For example, as Lambda Legal states, the law "required health and pension benefits only for state employees — it was voluntary for other employers — and did not require family leave to care for an ill partner."[5]

The domestic partnership statute remains in place even though New Jersey has since enacted a civil union statute. Couples in an existing domestic partnership are not required to enter a civil union. However, new domestic partnerships are available only to couples in which both partners are 62 and over, whether same-sex or different-sex.[4][5]

Civil Unions

Lewis v. Harris

Main article: Lewis v. Harris

On October 25, 2006, the Supreme Court of New Jersey unanimously ruled in Lewis v. Harris that the "unequal dispensation of rights and benefits to committed same-sex partners can no longer be tolerated under our State Constitution." With the Harris decision, gay couples were granted the same rights, benefits and responsibilities as heterosexual couples with respect to their relationships.

While the decision was widely reported as a 4-3 split, the differences between the Justices on the Court were on whether only the provision of civil marriage rights to same-sex couples would resolve the constitutional defect, or whether another statutory scheme would pass constitutional scrutiny. The Court avoided the question of what to call the legal status, leaving that to, as the majority stated, the "crucible of the democratic process."

The dissent, led by then-Chief Justice Deborah T. Poritz, chastised the junior members of the Court who said that anything other than marriage would provide equal rights: "What we name things matters, language matters...Labels set people apart surely as physical separation on a bus or in school facilities...By excluding same-sex couples from civil marriage, the State declares that it is legitimate to differentiate between their commitments and the commitments of heterosexual couples. Ultimately the message is that what same-sex couples have is not as important or as significant as "real" marriage, that such lesser relationships cannot have the name of marriage."

The court gave the state legislature six months to enact legislation providing for civil unions.

Civil Union Act

On December 14, 2006, the New Jersey Legislature passed a bill providing for civil unions[6] which was signed into law by Governor Jon Corzine on December 21, 2006. The Civil Union Act came into effect on February 19, 2007.

Same-sex couples who enter into a civil union are provided almost all of the rights granted to married couples under New Jersey state law. However, under the provisions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act or DOMA, same-sex couples in marriages, civil unions, or domestic partnerships do not have any right or entitlement to the 1,138 rights that a married couple has under federal law.[7].

The law provides[6] for the creation of a Civil Unions Review Commission that will evaluate the law's effectiveness and any problems resulting therefrom, and will report every six months for three years following enactment to assess the impact of the law. The first meeting of the Civil Unions Review Commission took place on June 18, 2007. The Commission elected a chair, Frank Vespa-Papaleo, the current Director of the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights, and the Commission plans on meeting monthly as well as conducting periodic public meetings.[8]

According to the new civil union law,[6] when a same-sex couple receives a civil union, their domestic partnership is automatically terminated by the civil union. However, those couples who remain in domestic partnerships and elect to not enter into a civil union will be allowed to remain as domestic partners.


The New Jersey State Bar Association took a formal position against the adoption of Civil Unions law, citing inherent and obvious problems and confusion the law has for the state's citizens and the legal representation. In addition, the NJSBA formally endorsed the marriage bill proposed by openly gay Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, saying that only marriage equality would meet the standard mandated by the NJ Supreme Court in its Lewis decision.

In addition, newspapers have also covered the apparent failure of the civil union law, once it became effective on February 19, 2007, to provide equal protection consistently to same-sex couples in New Jersey. The New York Times, the Star-Ledger and the Bergen Record have each done investigative stories on employers and insurers failing to provide benefits to civil unioned couples.

During the first 90 days of the law, 852 same-sex couples had gotten civil-unioned, according to the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services. During the same 90 days, the LGBT civil rights organization Garden State Equality reported that it has received alleged complaints from 102 couples denied benefits by employers or insurers.

On May 22, 2007, the Star-Ledger reported that the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights has received at least 270 inquiries from civil-unioned couples denied benefits by employers or insurers. As of June 18, 2007, however, only two complaints had actually been filed with the NJ Division of Civil Rights, it was reported at the first meeting of the Civil Unions Review Commission.

Denial of benefits by employers

According to the LGBT civil rights organization Garden State Equality, by the end of July 2007, 211 of the 1,358 couples (1 out of 7) who had entered New Jersey civil unions since February 19 had "reported to Garden State Equality that their employers refused to recognize their civil unions." [9] Among the companies flouting state law were shipping companies UPS, FedEx, and DHL, as well as a number of Fortune 500 companies.

UPS spokesman Norman Black had claimed that the company's collective bargaining agreement with the Teamsters union, representing about 8,700 UPS employees in New Jersey, stood in the way of extending benefits to same-sex partners: "the company's current union contract specifies that the benefits can only be extended to 'spouses,' but that New Jersey's civil unions law doesn't specifically call civil union partners 'spouses.'" [10]

On July 20, 2007, Governor Jon Corzine sent a letter to UPS officials on behalf of a UPS driver and her partner, asking the company to comply with New Jersey law and extend spousal benefits such as health insurance to civil union partners. On July 30, Allen Hill, UPS's senior vice president for human resources, announced, "We have received clear guidance that, at least in New Jersey, the state truly views civil union partners as married. We've heard that loud and clear from state officials and we're happy to make this change." [11]

The company also noted that it already offers equality of benefits to married same-sex couples in Massachusetts, and would review its policies in Connecticut and Vermont, which also offer civil unions (and have since enacted legislation legalizing same-sex marriage).

Possibility of same sex marriage

The commission formed to review whether civil unions have brought equality to same sex couples has determined that civil unions have failed to provide equal treatment. On December 10, 2008, the Commission unanimously released its finding that marriage laws should be made gender neutral to ensure equal treatment of same sex couples.[12]

On December 7, 2009, the New Jersey Senate Judicial Committee voted favorably on a civil marriage equality bill, after seven hours of testimony and debate 7 votes to 6. It was amended in committee to make clear clergy's exemption from having to perform same-sex weddings.

Governor Corzine has indicated that he would sign a bill to allow same sex marriage, if the legislature passed such a measure.[13]

On January 7, 2010 the New Jersey State Senate defeated the measure in a 20-14 vote. Immediately following the vote, Garden State Equality and Lambda Legal announced their intention to return to the courts.

Recognition of out-of-state relationships

New Jersey recognizes some same-sex relationships contracted out of state as either equivalent to and having the same legal force as New Jersey civil unions (where they "provide substantially all the rights and benefits of marriage"), and others as equivalent and having the same legal force as New Jersey domestic partnerships (where they "provide notably fewer rights").

NJ civil union equivalents

The following are equivalents to New Jersey civil unions:

  • Oregon - domestic partnerships
  • Washington - domestic partnerships
  • California - domestic partnerships
  • District of Columbia - domestic partnerships
  • Nevada - domestic partnerships
  • United Kingdom, New Zealand, Uruguay, Denmark, Finland and Iceland - government-sanctioned relationships that afford same-sex couples "rights and benefits identical to civil marriage"
  • one part of Mexico - Coahuila
  • one part of Australia - ACT

In addition, same-sex marriages contracted in the following jurisdictions are to be treated as New Jersey civil unions also:

NJ domestic partnership equivalents

The following are not considered equivalent to civil unions, but are considered equivalent to domestic partnerships, since they provide fewer rights than NJ civil unions:

  • Maine - domestic partnerships.
  • Wisconsin - domestic partnerships.
  • Maryland - domestic partnerships (very few rights that is not a registry).
  • Rhode Island - domestic partnerships (very few rights that is not a registry).
  • Colorado – designated beneficiary agreements
  • Hawaii - reciprocal beneficiary relationships
  • government-sanctioned same-sex relationships in Andorra, Australia, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Israel, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Switzerland
  • parts of Argentina, Italy, Brazil, Mexico.


The other "government-sanctioned same-sex relationships offered by foreign nations" besides those named "are valid" as either domestic partnerships or civil unions in New Jersey, depending on which one they "more closely approximate".

Economic Impact of Extending Marriage to Same Sex Couples

A UCLA study estimates the potential economic impact of same-sex marriage on the State of New Jersey and concludes that the gain would be substantial. If New Jersey were to give same-sex couples the right to marry, that is marriage itself and not civil unions, the State would likely experience a surge in spending on weddings by same-sex couples who currently live in New Jersey, as well as an increase in wedding and tourist spending by same-sex couples from other states. The analysis outlined in detail in the report predicts that sales by New Jersey’s wedding and tourism-related businesses would rise by $102.5 million in each of the first three years when marriage for same-sex couples is legal.[14] As a result, the State’s gross receipt tax revenues would rise by $7.2 million per year.

See also

  • LGBT rights in New Jersey


  1. Zernike, Kate. "As Gays Wed in New Jersey, Christie Ends Court Fight", New York Times, October 21, 2013. Retrieved on October 22, 2013. 
  2. "NJ Supreme Court won't delay gay marriage", The Record (Bergen County), October 18, 2013. Retrieved on October 22, 2013. 
  3. "NJ Gov. Chris Christie drops challenge to gay marriage; conservatives are angry", Associated Press via The Washington Post, October 21, 2013. Retrieved on October 22, 2013. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Rabner, Stuart. "Formal Opinion" (PDF), Attorney General, New Jersey, 2007-02-17. Retrieved on 2007-07-24. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Civil Unions for Same-sex Couples in New Jersey" (PDF),, Lambda Legal. Retrieved on 2007-07-31. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 New Jersey Public Law 2006, c.103 (PDF). New Jersey Legislature (2006). Retrieved on 2007-07-31.
  7. Defense of Marriage Act: Update to Prior Report, Letter to Senator Bill Frist (PDF). General Accounting Office. United States (2004-01-23). Retrieved on 2007-04-28.
  8. The New Jersey Civil Union Review Commission. Division on Civil Rights. State of New Jersey Department of Law & Public Safety: Office of the Attorney General (2009-01-20). Retrieved on 2009-04-22.
  9. "As UPS caves in, Fed Ex, DHL and scores of other companies continue to flaunt New Jersey's civil unions law,", 7/30/07
  10. "Corzine urges UPS to honor civil unions," Asbury Park Press, 7/21/07
  11. "UPS changes policy, gives benefits to partners of gay N.J. workers," USA Today, 7/31/07
  12. Livio and Heiniger. "Commission says New Jersey should allow gay marriage", The Star-Ledger, 2008-12-10. Retrieved on [[2008-12-10]]. 
  13. "Panel says New Jersey should allow gay marriage," Reuters, 12/10/08

External links

v  d  e  
Same-sex unions in the United States

Wikipedialogo.png This page uses content from Wikipedia. The original article was at Same-sex marriage in New Jersey. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.. As with LGBT Info, the text of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0.