Gay couples married in Massachusetts, Canada, the Netherlands, South Africa and Spain will be recognized as civil union partners, as will couples who have entered into civil unions in Vermont and Connecticut. Domestic partners in California — where domestic partnership works much like a New Jersey civil union — will be considered as civil unions, not marriages.
Civil unions, which will be available in New Jersey starting Monday, grant all the benefits of marriage, but not the title
Attorney General Stuart Rabner's decision Friday was included in his opinion for the state Department of Health and Senior Services, which is responsible for registering civil unions.
"In the nick of time before next week, the attorney general has given peace of mind to a lot of families," said David S. Buckel, the director of the Marriage Law Project for Lambda Legal, a gay rights group.
But he and other gay rights activists also said that not recognizing marriages from elsewhere is unfair and possibly discriminatory.
"New Jersey should not be in the business of stripping individuals and couples of rights they already lawfully obtained," said Ed Barocas, the legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union in New Jersey.
Couples who have domestic partnerships with lesser obligations and benefits than marriage, such as those in Maine and Washington, D.C., will be considered domestic partners in New Jersey, where they are offered only a handful of the rights and responsibilities of marriage.
Steven Goldstein, the executive director of Garden State Equality, said he expected that litigation would be filed over the issue.