The Legislature finds and declares that:
a. Same-sex couples in New Jersey live together in committed relationships without the benefits and rights afforded to heterosexual couples who choose to marry;
b. Promoting such stable and durable relationships as well as eliminating obstacles and hardships these couples may face is necessary and proper and reaffirms this State's obligation to insure equality for all the citizens of New Jersey;
c. New Jersey was one of the first states to adopt comprehensive legislation prohibiting discrimination based on affectional or sexual orientation and one of the first states to formally recognize domestic partnerships by enacting the “Domestic Partnership Act,” P.L.2003, c. 246 ( C.26:8A-1 et al.) on January 12, 2004 thereby guaranteeing in law certain rights and benefits to those individuals who enter into domestic partnerships;
d. Those rights and benefits afforded to same-sex couples under the “Domestic Partnership Act” should be expanded by the legal recognition of civil unions between same-sex couples in order to provide these couples with all the rights and benefits that married heterosexual couples enjoy;
e. It is the intent of the Legislature to comply with the constitutional mandate set forth by the New Jersey Supreme Court in the recent landmark decision of Lewis v. Harris, 188 N.J. 415 (October 25, 2006) wherein the Court held that the equal protection guarantee of Article I, paragraph 1 of the State Constitution was violated by denying rights and benefits to committed same-sex couples which were statutorily given to their heterosexual counterparts. The Court stated that the “State can fulfill that constitutional requirement in one of two ways. It can either amend the marriage statutes to include same-sex couples or enact a parallel statutory structure by another name, in which same-sex couples would not only enjoy the rights and benefits, but also bear the burdens and obligations of civil marriage.” Id. at 463.
f. The Legislature has chosen to establish civil unions by amending the current marriage statute to include same-sex couples. In doing so, the Legislature is continuing its longstanding history of insuring equality under the laws for all New Jersey citizens by providing same-sex couples with the same rights and benefits as heterosexual couples who choose to marry.
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