Barry and Marty married 5/5/07
 

Civil Unions

 
GardenStateEquality.org is New Jersey's political action organization uniting LGBTI and straight voters who support equal rights for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community. Garden State Equality has offered this practical guide to New Jersey civil unions. This information should not be construed as legal advice from Garden State Equality in whole or in part. We present the questions and answers below merely as a public service. For legal advice, please consult your own attorney.
 
When does the civil unions law go into effect?
 
The law goes into effect on Monday, February 19, 2007, sixty days after Governor Corzine signs the bill into law on Thursday, December 21, 2006 at 11:00am. Monday, February 19, 2007 is the first day you will be allowed to obtain a civil union license. New Jersey law mandates a 72-hour waiting period between getting the license and actually getting civil-unioned, equal to the waiting period before getting married. Therefore, if you obtain your civil union license on Monday, February 19, 2007, the earliest you can get civil-unioned is Thursday, February 22, 2007. Please note that Monday, February 19, 2007 is a state holiday, so likely you will first be able to obtain a civil union license on Tuesday, February 20, 2007, and first be able to get civil-unioned on Friday, February 23, 2007.
 
What are the mechanics of getting a civil union?
 
If you're a New Jersey couple or one of you is a New Jersey resident, you may pick up a civil union license in the municipality in which you live. Go to your city hall, township hall, village hall or borough hall during business hours. If neither of you live in New Jersey, pick up a civil union license in the municipality in which your civil union will take place. Again, as with marriages, New Jersey has a 72-hour waiting period between the time you get your license and the time you go through with your civil union. Once you pick up your civil union license, the license is good for 30 calendar days.
 
When you pick up your license, bring two blank checks with you. One check you'll make out for $25 and the other check for $3, for $28 in fees together, the same fees as for marriage. Once you've waited the 72 hours after you get your license, you can have your ceremony. In any case, you will need one witness 18 years or older, who is neither you nor your partner, nor your officiant. Your civil union may be conducted by a clergy member in New Jersey (or registering officer if you are a Quaker) or by the following government officials: A federal, state or municipal judge whose jurisdiction is, or includes, New Jersey; or a county surrogate, county clerk, mayor, deputy mayor if authorized by the mayor, or the head of a municipal council. After your ceremony, you or your officiant have 5 calendar days to send your civil union license and certificate to the local registrar or clerk of the county board of health. If you’re planning your ceremony with us and you don't personally know a clergy person or government official, contact us at jerseyshoregayweddings.com well in advance to help you arrange one for your civil union.
 
What if we're domestic-partnered in New Jersey? Do we have to do anything to end our domestic partnership before we get a civil union?
 
No, you don't have to do anything to end your existing domestic partnership. According to the new civil union law, when you get a civil union, your domestic partnership is automatically superceded by the civil union. If you and your partner choose not to get a civil union but instead prefer to stay with the far fewer protections of your existing domestic partnership, your domestic partnership will be unaffected. For same-sex couples, once the civil unions law takes effect, only civil unions and not domestic partnerships will be available.
 
We are not New Jersey residents but we want to get a civil union in New Jersey. Can we?
 
Yes, you can. New Jersey does not have a residency requirement for either marriages or civil unions. If you are not residents of New Jersey, pick up a civil union license in the municipality in which your civil union will take place. If you’re planning your ceremony with us, contact us at jerseyshoregayweddings.com well in advance to help you arrange one.
 
If we're not New Jersey residents but get a civil union in New Jersey, will our New Jersey civil union be recognized in our home state?
 
Contact the statewide organization in your home state or see a lawyer. We expect that many same-sex couples in New York and Pennsylvania, New Jersey's border states with substantial LGBTI populations, will come to New Jersey to obtain a civil union. If you're a New Yorker, contact the Empire State Pride Agenda at (212) 627-0305. If you're a Pennsylvanian, contact the Center for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights of Pennsylvania at (215) 731-1447.
 
 
My partner and I got a civil union in another state. Do we need to get a civil union in New Jersey? Can we still get civil-unioned in New Jersey if we want to?
 
If you and your partner got a civil union in Vermont or Connecticut, New Jersey's new civil unions law allows you automatically to consider yourselves civil unioned in New Jersey. But according to the new law, you also have the option of getting another civil union in New Jersey. Some same-sex couples in New Jersey who have been civil-unioned in Vermont or Connecticut believe it would be wise to get a civil union in New Jersey so our state has it on record. If you registered as domestic partners in California, you know California domestic partnerships contain enough rights, benefits and responsibilities that practically speaking, they equal civil unions. But because California domestic partnerships are still not called civil unions, if you want civil-union protection in New Jersey, we'd recommend that you get a civil union in New Jersey. If you registered as domestic partners in some other state and want civil-union protection in New Jersey, we'd recommend that you get a civil union in New Jersey.
My same-sex spouse and I got married in a country that allows same-sex couples to marry, like Canada, Spain, South Africa, Belgium and the Netherlands. Will New Jersey recognize our marriage?
 
If you are a same-sex couple who got married in Canada, Spain, South Africa, Belgium or the Netherlands and now live in New Jersey, please contact GardenStateEquality.org immediately.
 
My same-sex spouse and I got married in Massachusetts and now live here in New Jersey. Will New Jersey recognize our marriage?
 
If you are a same-sex couple who got married in Massachusetts and now live in New Jersey, please contact GardenStateEquality.org immediately.
 
If a clergy member performs our civil union in a religious ceremony in New Jersey, can the clergy member call it a marriage or a wedding, or refer to us at the ceremony as spouses?
 
You, and your clergy member or other officiant, can use whatever terminology you'd like for the ceremony. It is, after all, your ceremony. But to be clear, the maximum legal protection afforded you in New Jersey right now is that of a civil union, not a marriage.
 
My partner is not a U.S. citizen but I am and I live in New Jersey. If we get a civil union in New Jersey, will my partner be able to come live in the United States like an opposite-sex husband or wife of a U.S. citizens could?
 
Immigration is totally governed by federal law, which does not recognize same-sex relationships, whether marriages, civil unions or domestic partnerships. We would advise you, in this case, to see a lawyer who specializes in immigration
 
 
When you get a civil union, consider making a contribution to GardenStateEquality.org or ask your guests at a ceremony to do so. The money will go directly to our fight for real marriage equality. Our address is Garden State Equality, 67 Church Street, Montclair, New Jersey 07042. You may donate to us online at www.GardenStateEquality.org
 
After you get civil-unioned, contact Garden State Equality immediately should you ever find your civil union not recognized in New Jersey, whether by a hospital, employer, public accommodation or any other institution. That will help us demonstrate why we need real marriage equality.
 
Again, the contact information for GardenStateEquality.org is (973)GSE-LGBT and Contact@GardenStateEquality.org.
 
Click here for an extensive guide to Civil Unions in New Jersey from Lambda Legal.