Marriage on the Horizon for New Jersey, Iowa's Gay Couples

Though the recent passage of three statewide marriage bans this fall was discouraging, it's time to look ahead to which states are putting marriage to the top of their agenda. A report released by New Jersey's Civil Union Review Commission this morning says that civil unions are just not enough, and that legislators must continue to push for marriage for gay and lesbian couples.

New Jersey civil unions went into effect in early 2007, but the 13 commission members found that there have been instances of gay couples being treated unequally. Some were prevented from making medical decisions for each other or from visiting each other in the hospital. From the report:

NJ Gov. John Corzine

NJ Gov. John Corzine

"...the separate categorization established by the Civil Union Act invites and encourages unequal treatment of same-sex couples and their children."

Gov. Jon S. Corzine has previously stated that he would sign a bill allowing gay couples to marry.

Over in Iowa, this week marks the opening day for the state's marriage case, Varnum v. Brien. Last August, Iowa's Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to bar same-sex couples from marrying. However, only one couple was able to marry before the judge put a stay on the decision less than 24 hours later, so the case is being heard again.

Plaintiffs Kate and Trish Varnum (Lambda Legal.)

Iowa Plaintiffs Kate and Trish Varnum (Lambda Legal.)

Lambda Legal is representing the plaintiffs in the case. A decision isn't expected for at least a few months.

Currently gay couples can legally marry in Massachusetts and Connecticut, and these marriages are also recognized by the state of New York.

A recent poll conducted by Harris Interactive reported that two-thirds of Americans believe in legal relationship recognition for gay and lesbian couples.