On Monday, New Jersey Governor James McGreevey signed into law the Domestic Partnership Act providing certain domestic partnership rights to gay and lesbian couples. NJ.com reports that the law also applies to heterosexual couples over the age of 62 who often forgo marriage in order to keep their pension income or Social Security benefits.
The law does not provide the same benefits as marriage. What’s most encouraging to advocates of lesbian and gay rights is how easily the law passed through the Senate last week. The New York Times reports that after 15 minutes of debate, with five Senators speaking in favor of the bill and none voicing opposition, the Senate voted to pass the measure 23-9. New Jersey is the fifth state to offer domestic partnership rights.
The New Jersey law gives couples the right to visit their partner in the hospital, make critical medial decisions when their loved one is incapacitated, and make state income tax deductions for dependents, NJ.com reports. The law also exempts partners from inheritance taxes and provides health insurance coverage for partners of state employees. Local government employees whose employers participate in the State Health Benefits Program would also be eligible. Private employers are not required to provide health coverage for partners but health insurance companies must provide the benefit as an option to employers and individuals.