New Jersey Civil Unions for Same-Sex Partners

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Types of Same-Sex Partnerships

There are currently 19 jurisdictions that recognize same-sex marriage: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and Washington D.C.

There are several other states, such as Utah, Michigan, and Wisconsin, where a ban on same-sex marriage has been overturned or nullified by a court, but are currently engulfed in legal appeals over the state of their same-sex marriage laws. These legal battles essentially stop any gay marriages until the matter is finalized.

A number of states, where gay marriage is not recognized, have a separate category of legal unions for same-sex couples. These unions typically provide most of the basic rights and responsibilities associated with marriage, but they eschew the traditional “marriage” label. By contrast, the majority of states in the U.S. do not legally recognize any form of same-sex union.

New Jersey's Civil Unions and Same-Sex Marriages

New Jersey became the 14th jurisdiction to recognize same-sex marriage on October 23, 2013. Prior to then, same-sex residents of the state could only obtain civil unions. During this time, many claimed that New Jersey’s scheme was unequal to marriage. For example, some employers in New Jersey refused to recognize civil unions for the purpose of providing spousal benefits.

By recognizing and performing gay marriages, the state of New Jersey essentially offers the exact same rights and benefits of the law, which heterosexual married couples enjoy, to homosexual couples.

New Jersey Same-Sex Marriages and Federal Law

In 1996, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) prohibited the federal government from recognizing any form of same-sex partnerships for the purposes of receiving federal benefits. This law marked a significant prohibition, since many federal benefits also affect the beneficiary’s spouse. Affected benefits included:

In 2013, the Supreme Court declared that it was unconstitutional for DOMA to deny same-sex married couples the same federal benefits other married couples enjoy. Thus, same-sex couples can now file jointly on income tax returns and enjoy many other benefits that are associated with marriage.

Do I Need a New Jersey Attorney?

Because of the changing nature of and the inherent complications with this area of law, if you are in a same-sex relationship in New Jersey, and have any questions about your or your partner’s legal rights, you should contact an experienced family lawyer.

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Last Modified: 06-20-2014 12:29 PM PDT

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