The bill, approved by the Senate 23 to 9 and the state House before that, gives same-sex couples many of the rights available to legally married couples, according to an Associated Press report.
The legislation would give domestic partners access to medical benefits, insurance and other legal rights, and New Jersey would recognize partnerships from other states. The legislation does not change the state’s marriage law, which specifies unions must be between a man and a woman.
To obtain domestic-partner status, a couple has to live together and show proof of joint financial status or property ownership or designation of the partner as the beneficiary in a retirement plan or will. The measure also would allow a surviving partner to gain property rights and other survivors’ benefits.
Gay and lesbian advocates cheered, hugged and some openly wept as senators voted. “I absolutely kissed the floor,” Steven Goldstein, campaign manager of Lambda Legal, an advocacy group, told the AP. However, conservative groups said the legal fight was far from over. John Tomicki , executive director of the League of American Families, said the bill discriminates against unmarried heterosexual couples.
Domestic partnerships are recognized in California, Massachusetts and Hawaii, and civil unions between same-sex couples are legal in Vermont.