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Civil Unions Becoming More Common

More states are following New Jersey’s lead and allowing same-sex couples to enter into legally recognized civil unions, which have the same benefits of marriage.

Experienced New Jersey family law attorneys pay close attention to New Jersey’s recent civil union law. The law was passed in 2007 by New Jersey’s state legislature in response to the New Jersey Supreme Court.

The New Jersey civil union law gives same-sex couples the eligibility for all of the benefits of marriage under state law but does not give same-sex couples any right to federal benefits, however. Same-sex couples are not entitled to federal benefits under the Defense of Marriage Act, which may be repealed in the coming years.

New Jersey also has a rapidly changing field of domestic partnership laws. New Jersey domestic partnership laws were some of the first in the country to give couples some, but not all, of the benefits of marriage under state law. These laws originally applied to same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples who were over 62.

Domestic partnerships entered into by younger same-sex couples before the enactment of the new civil union law are still valid, but it may make sense for some couples to replace their domestic partnership with a civil union or to enter into an over-62 domestic partnership, which is also still valid.

Same-sex civil unions or domestic partnerships are allowed in six states, California, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington, and Hawaii. Currently, same-sex marriage is legal in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Washington D.C.

A civil union bill is currently being advanced in Colorado’s senate, and a same-sex marriage bill stalled last Friday in Maryland’s senate. The Maryland bill will not be considered again until January 2012 at the earliest, Ms. Magazine reports.

Source: Ms. Magazine, “Same-Sex Marriage Bill Stalled in Maryland,” 3/14/11