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:lol:Did A Certain Councilman Register Yet??? :lol:


Registrations throughout Hudson make couples domestic partners

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

By Sarah N. Lynch

Journal staff writer

The turnout was light yesterday in Hudson County as municipalities opened their doors to couples registering their domestic partnerships.

Jersey City received the highest turnout, with four couples as of about 3:30 p.m., followed by North Bergen, with three couples, and Hoboken, with two couples, as of about noon.

"I think it's wonderful," said Zenobia Gray, who signed up for domestic partnership with Ruth Joseph in Guttenberg yesterday.

"We're going to buy some champagne, being the first in Guttenberg . We planned to spend the night out in front of Town Hall, but that was not necessary."

The new domestic partnership law, which confers some of the rights of married couples to same-sex couples over 18 and opposite sex couples over 62, went into effect at midnight on Saturday, but all the municipalities in Hudson decided to wait until yesterday to register couples.

None of the couples in Hudson are over 62.

The law, signed by Gov. James E. McGreevey, provides hospital intensive care unit visitation rights, the ability to file joint state income tax returns and to inherit property without paying a state inheritance tax, and access to pension benefits.

Many Hudson officials said midnight registrations Saturday in places like Maplewood and Maple Shade, both of which registered hundreds of couples Saturday, were probably to blame for the low turnout yesterday.

But Beth Achenbach and her partner, Catherine Hecht, were the first couple to register in Jersey City. The two decided not to register in Maplewood because they feel attached to their hometown.

"We just wanted to do it where we lived, it's just that simple," Achenbach said. "Here is where all our friends are. We volunteer our time here for organizations."

Achenbach said she knew a number of people who said they were not in a rush but still planned to register.

Terry Grecco, the registrar for Weehawken, said that as of 4 p.m., not a single couple had shown up.

"Things are slow today," said Grecco. "We expected a line out the door. Maybe they all went to Maplewood on Saturday."

But other local officials said they were not at all surprised to see only a few couples come knocking at the door.

"I figured we would have a light day," said Jersey City Clerk Robert Byrne, also citing the Maplewood celebration.

Paul Somerville, who was the first to register in Hoboken with his partner, Allen Kratz, at 9 a.m. yesterday, suggested several possibilities for the low turnout.

"We were the first in Hoboken this morning and there was at least one other couple doing what we were doing, but . there was a really big rally in Maplewood," he said.

Somerville also said there may be couples who are not yet ready to make their relationships public.

"Given where one may be in life in terms of being out or in, some people may elect to do it in a municipality where they may not live," he said.

"You may not want the exposure, and Hudson County is comprised of many small towns and small-town mentalities."

Reactions to the domestic partnership law have been mixed.

Gary Kugler, pastor at St. John Lutheran Church in Union City, said that although he is opposed to gay marriage, he would be more supportive of domestic partnership if the law encompassed all people.

"I would be for domestic partner laws if they included heterosexual and asexual couples equally, meaning siblings, friends and people who are close," he said.

Kratz and Somerville said that although they were married already in Oregon, they decided to sign up for domestic partnership because the marriage is not recognized legally in the state of New Jersey.

They said the process ran smoothly.

"Paul and I were at the Vital Statistics office this morning at 9 o'clock and at 9:10, we started the paperwork," Kratz said. "It took about 15 minutes and Joan Kenirey, the registrar, even came out from behind the glassed-in area and gave us a big hug and kiss to congratulate us for being number one."

Kratz, who has been with Somerville for 26 years, said that while the domestic partnership law does not do enough to secure gay marriage rights, it is still a step in the right direction.

He said it took 48 hours to go to Oregon, get married and come back.

"That's more time than Britney Spears' most recent marriage," he quipped. "Who is the threat to the institution of marriage? What's the greater threat?"

Copyright 2004 NJ.com. All Rights Reserved.


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