Union County Becomes First to Support Statewide Marriage Equality
Union County, NJ – Union County is the first of New Jersey’s 21 counties to support state legislation that would guarantee equal marriage rights for same-sex couples in New Jersey. The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders passed a resolution in favor of the legislation during its regular meeting on Thursday, December 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 entire Union County community stands to benefit when our friends and neighbors enjoy the same legal guarantees and constitutional protections,” said Mirabella. “Marriage equality affects fundamentals such as parental rights, insurance, access to government services, property ownership, and health care decisions.”
The proposed state legislation is called the New Jersey Freedom of Religion and Equality in Civil Marriage Act. It provides for equal access to obtain a civil marriage certificate. It does not affect religious ceremonies. State lawmakers will 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 of “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.