This week in Vermont, the legislature overturned the Governor’s veto of the gay marriage bill. The effect of this decision is that Vermont will be the fourth state in the United States to legalize gay marriage, providing gay couples the same rights and privileges of heterosexual couples. Vermont already had a statute permitting civil unions that are recognized in New Jersey, however, the bill allowing gay marriage provides additional protections as the couple may refer to each other as “spouse” not partner. This is especially significant to those in the military, who are essentially prohibited from obtaining health and other benefits for their civil union partners, as the result would be outing themselves.
The laws of New Jersey recognize gay unions, whether marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships, so long as the rights and privileges under the laws of the state granting such a union are substantially similar to those provided to a married heterosexual couple. Thus, not only will a same sex marriage or civil union from Vermont be recognized here, but should the marriage or civil union disintegrate, New Jersey will also provide a forum for dissolution by way of divorce if the jurisdictional requirements are met.
New Jersey’s recognition of same-sex unions even reaches beyond the United States. This issue was recently before the Honorable Mary C. Jacobson, P.J.F.P., of the New Jersey Superior Court in Mercer County, who held that a same-sex couple who were married in British Columbia were entitled to a divorce in New Jersey based upon the principles of comity and ordered that the Plaintiff was entitled to pursue dissolution of her same-sex marriage to the Defendant by seeking a Final Judgment of Divorce.