Two weeks ago, both houses of the New Jersey state legislature passed the “Marriage Equality and Religious Exception Act,” a same-sex marriage bill that was later vetoed by Governor Chris Christie.
Whether or not the measure eventually becomes law, Collingswood Patch examined some demographic data from the 2010 U.S. census in an effort to understand the potential impact of such legislation on families in the borough.
One common reason given by same-sex couples for the need for legal recognition of their marital status is to establish certain protections for their children.
In 2000, researchers Gary Gates and Jason Ost of the nonpartisan Urban Institute calculated that 10,000 children are being raised by gay and lesbian couples in New Jersey in their study, “A Demographic Profile of New Jersey's Gay and Lesbian Families.”
In that same study, the pair reasoned that “New Jersey's same-sex families with children are already at some economic disadvantage compared to their heterosexual counterparts. The lack of marriage rights could be exacerbating that situation.”
As of the 2010 census, Collingswood is home to an estimated 132 unmarried, same-sex couples: 77 male-male and 55 female-female. Of those households, 22 are raising children (10 male-male and 11 female-female couples).
Comparatively, the 2010 census also estimates that Collingswood is home to 576 unmarried-partner households, 444 of which are heterosexual couples. Of those, 122 are raising children. There are also an estimated 2,320 traditional husband-wife households, 990 of which are raising children.
For same-sex couples who are interested in commemorating their commitment to one another in a civil union of some sort, “New Jersey (and the larger tri-state are) continues to be a strong market,” said Kathryn Hamm, President of GayWeddings.com, an online wedding planning site that caters to same-sex couples.
In an e-mail to Collingswood Patch, Hamm said, the niche in which her business operates has been a lucrative one nationwide for more then a decade.
“Our company was founded by my straight mom back in 1999,” she said. “There wasn't a hint of marriage equality in the air in those days; nonetheless, couples were tying the knot.”
Therefore, Hamm said, even if New Jersey doesn’t enact a law that puts the civil union on equal legal footing with traditional marriage, couples will continue to exchange vows in some form or another.
For religious officiants who object to same-sex marriage, the religious exception component of the “Marriage Equality and Religious Exception Act,” indicates that “someone with a different religious opinion does not have to marry a gay couple…but the state of NJ would recognize all marriages,” Hamm said.
Only five states (Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Vermont, and Iowa) plus Washington D.C. have legalized gay marriage. Only two others (New York and California) legally recognize gay marriages performed elsewhere.
“The difference will be the amount of paperwork they have to do to complete their taxes, create their wills and other legal agreements, and whether or not they’ll choose a New Jersey civil union or hop across state lines and tie the knot legally in New York,” she said.