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N.J. mandates benefits, rights for same-sex unions


TRENTON, N.J.--Same-sex couples in New Jersey now have the right to enter civil unions, and are guaranteed the same benefits and protections as married couples, under legislation signed Friday by New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine.

Under the law, same-sex couples in civil unions will be able to collect survivor benefits, have the right of hospital visitation and be eligible for tax deductions, according to a statement from the governor's office.

Additionally, all businesses, including public and private employers, and other institutions in New Jersey are mandated to treat couples in civil unions the same way as couples who are married, the statement said.

The legislation was passed in response to an October decision by the New Jersey Supreme Court, which ruled that same-sex couples and their families have a constitutional right to be afforded the same rights as other New Jersey families.

"I believe very fundamentally in equal protection under the law and this legislation is about meeting that basic responsibility and honoring the commitments that individuals have made to each other," Gov. Corzine said in the statement.