Rights for Gays
New York Times Editorial
January 13, 2004
Jersey struck an important blow for equal rights yesterday,
when Gov. James McGreevey signed a gay domestic partnership
law. The new law gives gay couples significant new rights, including
financial benefits and hospital visiting privileges. New Jersey's
action, which produced surprisingly little controversy, should
encourage other states and municipalities to redress discrimination
against gay and lesbian couples.
Massachusetts's recent court decision that gay people have a
right to marry was grabbing all the headlines late last year,
New Jersey legislators were quietly promoting a bill to extend
many of the benefits of marriage to same-sex couples. They succeeded
last week when the bill, which had already been approved by
the Assembly, was passed by the Senate, 23 to 9. It was striking
how little opposition the bill generated: before the Senate
voted, not a single senator spoke against the measure.
new law addresses a wide array of injustices in New Jersey.
Gay partners will no longer be excluded from hospital rooms
because they are not legally recognized as family members, and
will be able to make important medical decisions for each other.
The law extends to gay people many of the tax advantages married
couples enjoy, including the right to claim a partner as an
exemption on state income tax filings. Gay partners in New Jersey
are still denied some of the rights of married people, including
significant financial rights. Gays should be allowed to marry,
as Massachusetts's highest court recently held. But New Jersey
has taken an enormous step forward.
Jersey joins four other states and countless municipalities
in recognizing gay partnership rights. In a recent cover story,
Governing magazine reported that the newest group to join the
fight for such laws was the business community, which increasingly
views the laws as crucial to attracting the young, highly skilled
work force that is needed to compete in today's economy. If
this theory is right, New Jersey has helped the entire state
by standing up for its gay residents.