The Legislature finds and declares that:
a. There are a significant number of individuals in this State who choose to live together in important personal, emotional and economic committed relationships with another individual;
b. These familial relationships, which are known as domestic partnerships, assist the State by their establishment of a private network of support for the financial, physical and emotional health of their participants;
c. Because of the material and other support that these familial relationships provide to their participants, the Legislature believes that these mutually supportive relationships should be formally recognized by statute, and that certain rights and benefits should be made available to individuals participating in them, including: statutory protection against various forms of discrimination against domestic partners; certain visitation and decision-making rights in a health care setting; and certain tax-related benefits; and, in some cases, health and pension benefits that are provided in the same manner as for spouses;
d. All persons in domestic partnerships should be entitled to certain rights and benefits that are accorded to married couples under the laws of New Jersey, including: statutory protection through the “Law Against Discrimination,” P.L.1945, c. 169 ( C.10:5-1 et seq. ) against various forms of discrimination based on domestic partnership status, such as employment, housing and credit discrimination; visitation rights for a hospitalized domestic partner and the right to make medical or legal decisions for an incapacitated partner; and an additional exemption from the personal income tax and the transfer inheritance tax on the same basis as a spouse. The need for all persons who are in domestic partnerships, regardless of their sex, to have access to these rights and benefits is paramount in view of their essential relationship to any reasonable conception of basic human dignity and autonomy, and the extent to which they will play an integral role in enabling these persons to enjoy their familial relationships as domestic partners and to cope with adversity when a medical emergency arises that affects a domestic partnership, as was painfully but graphically illustrated on a large scale in the aftermath of the tragic events that befell the people of our State and region on September 11, 2001;
e. The Legislature, however, discerns a clear and rational basis for making certain health and pension benefits available to dependent domestic partners only in the case of domestic partnerships in which both persons are of the same sex and are therefore unable to enter into a marriage with each other that is recognized by New Jersey law, unlike persons of the opposite sex who are in a domestic partnership but have the right to enter into a marriage that is recognized by State law and thereby have access to these health and pension benefits; and
f. Therefore, it is the public policy of this State to hereby establish and define the rights and responsibilities of domestic partners.
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