Given Chance to Make History, New Jersey Punts

| Fri Dec. 15, 2006 3:07 PM EST

Well, knock me over with a feather! Faced with a high court mandate to create either civil unions or gay marriage, New Jersey legislators opted yesterday for civil unions. Civil unions in New Jersey will now reap all of the benefits of marriage except the name.

Can you sense my surprise emanating from your screen?

There are only a few noteworthy things to say about yesterday's developments.

First, a few Republicans were bold enough to vote against the measure even though the court ruling demanded it.

Second, Senator Loretta Weinberg (D), who sponsored the civil unions bill, implied that the court had not left marriage-rights advocates enough time to take the more difficult route. Weinberg and Wilfredo Caraballo (D), who introduced the measure in the Assembly, emphasized that the law leaves room for same-sex couples to earn the right to marry down the road. Republicans tried unsuccessfully to preclude that possibility by proposing an amendment defining marriage as the union between a man and a woman.

Finally, gay rights advocates aren't having it, and are planning to protest the enactment of the law.

New Jersey will become the third state in the union—with Vermont and Connecticut—to recognize civil unions with all of the privileges (but none of the gravitas) of marriage. Only Massachusetts allows gay marriage. (See my posts here and here to see how hoppin' mad the state's homophobes are.)