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NJ Civil Unions: Dead On Arrival?

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That was quick.

Gov. Jon S. Corzine said he hopes to sign civil unions into law on Thursday, which would give gay couples the same rights as married couples, but is worried that mayors will be able to refuse to conduct the ceremonies.

"That would not be equal treatment under the law, but I would like to understand what the rights and obligations are," Corzine said Monday, adding that his lawyers were reviewing the bill.

No New Jersey mayor is required to perform marriage ceremonies, but if a mayor chooses to marry one couple, he cannot refuse to marry another. Right now, Corzine's lawyers are deciphering whether the 'marry one, marry all' clause can be applied to couples seeking civil unions.

(Unfortunately, the Governor has to have his lawyers tell him marriage and civil unions do not provide the same legal benefits. If only someone had warned him!)

Marriage-law expert Stephen Hyland says the mayors' refusals would not violate the law outright, but, "to say we're only going to conduct certain types of ceremonies [i.e. marriages not civil unions] opens the door pretty widely. It does raise discrimination questions." The governor is unsure of what he'll do if his lawyers reach the same conclusion.

Corzine could conditionally veto the bill, under which it would be sent back to lawmakers for revision. Or, he could sign it and hope lawmakers amend it.

This is certainly a lot of silliness for something that the word 'marriage' could remedy in an instant. But if Corzine signs the bill anyway, this issue will come right back when the law goes into effect.

Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan has said he will not perform the ceremonies and vowed Monday to not back down.

"This is the first time in history an American is being told to perform a ritualistic ceremony no matter what you believe in," Lonegan said. "I'm not doing it. I'm daring them to make me do it."

Lonegan forgets that he is a civil servant, and is performing a legal -- not religious -- function. Though, as it turns out, right-wingers like Lonegan will be lending a hand to same-sex couples. Challenging this discriminatory law could knock it down and accelerate the pace at which New Jersey approaches marriage equality.

And to think people say bipartisanship is dead.