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Da Rolling Mills Of New Joisey

New Jersey To Recognize Gay Couples

The debate was expected to be volatile, but members of the New Jersey Senate instead showed broad support on Thursday for a measure to give the state's recognition to same-sex domestic partnerships. The measure, passed by a 23-to-9 vote, goes to Gov. James E. McGreevey, who has said he is eager to sign it.

... The legislation, which also applies to heterosexual couples over age 62, permits those registered as domestic partners to make critical medical decisions for each other. It requires insurance companies to offer health care coverage to domestic partners equivalent to that for spouses.

... Steven Goldstein, who has directed lobbying for the bill for Lambda Legal, a gay-rights organization, said: "I'm on Cloud 27. It's not just that we won. It's that we won without rancor."

... The bill received scant public attention until the Legislature returned from recess this week, and there were no hearings. The Assembly approved it by a single vote in December. The bill's opponents had protested that public debate was stymied.

... The measure was also opposed by the Catholic Conference of New Jersey, which in a letter to senators on Wednesday said that "it attempts to cast aside marriage as our legal standard of legitimate cohabitation."

If the Catholic Conference of New Jersey is worried that marriage is being cast aside, perhaps they ought to support letting homosexual couples participate in marriage. That way creating other types of legally recognized cohabitation wouldn't be necessary.

Turning to the other criticism, "scant public attention" is right. I'd heard nary a word about this decision, despite a heavy dose of blog-reading, until I ran across a link on Prometheus 6 a day and a half later. Granted, the gain is fairly small -- far short of civil unions -- but the Human Rights Campaign seems to fire off mass emailings at the drop of a hat, so you'd think I'd have gotten some triumphant message from them by now.

I wouldn't dismiss out of hand the complaint that the bill was rushed through without public debate. My guess is that such publicity would have been to the opponents' advantage, giving them the opportunity to frame it as the first step on the road to destruction of the family and thus frighten off culturally moderate legislators. However, the margin of victory is wide enough that I think it still would have passed. And it's instances like this -- in which the legislature firmly backs progress of its own accord -- that need more publicity. Anti-gay-marriage folks have made a lot of rhetorical hay out of the idea that gay rights are being foisted undemocratically on us by culturally liberal elite judges. A robust public debate would also help to reinforce the idea that gay rights are not something desired by only a few gay activists, but are something that is rooted in the sense of justice that a large swath of the populace has.


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