Bill advances to pave an easier, but costlier road to marriage, civil union for the lovestruck

TRENTON – It’d cost twice as much to get hitched in New Jersey under legislation reported out of an Assembly committee Monday.

The license fee increase is part of one of two bills unanimously released by the Assembly Judiciary Committee that make it easier to enter into vows of holy matrimony.

Both measures also apply to civil unions for same sex couples, who can’t legally marry in the Garden State.

One (A4170) allows members of the National Gudard and active duty military to get married or enter into a civil union by proxy when the service member is serving in a conflict overseas. Modeled on legislation that is now law in California, an identical bill (S299) passed the Senate 35-0 in June.

“For service men and women, the call to serve can come at any moment,” Assemblyman Herb Conaway, D-7, Delran, the bill sponsor said in a statement. “Putting civilian life on hold is part of the course for deployed soldiers, but not being able to get married because the law requires them to be in the states, is wrong. This measure will allow soldiers serving overseas to exchange ‘I do’s’, even when they are thousands of miles away.”

And anyone who’s lovestruck would be able to exchange those ‘I do’s’ a lot quicker in New Jersey under a separate piece of legislation that sets aside the current 72-hour waiting period for a marriage license in favor of same-day service.

The brainchild of incoming Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald, the bill (A4366) would legalize same-day marriage and civil unions in New Jersey in what Greenwald says is an effort to boost tourism and local economies that could benefit from the wedding trade, from florists and hotels to tuxedo rentals and photographers.

“It would be a huge economic boost and the ripple effect would be felt around New Jersey,” Greenwald, D-6, Voorhees, told the committee during its hearing on the bill.

Greenwald noted that he initially envisioned the bill to help Atlantic City, which has been knocked around by increased competition and the recession. “But then we started to get calls from everywhere.”

Greenwald and others noted that 27 other states allow for same-day weddings, and that New Jersey would have an advantage over Pennyslvania (three-day wait), New York and Delaware (both 24 hours), which outlaw them.

Among those who testified in favor of the bill was Dave DelVecchio, mayor of Lambertville, the tourist town along the Delaware. It was DelVecchio who officiated at the first civil union ceremony in the state the moment they became legal back in 2007.

“This will help our towns remain competitive,” DelVecchio told the committee. He said hotels and other businesses in his city would benefit.

Atlantic City’s also looking to benefit as a kind of Vegas of the East, though one casino big wig let it be known that he believes the measure would give a boost far beyond New Jersey’s gambling mecca.

“It’s been compared to Nevada for the casinos,” said Joe Tyrell of Caesars Entertainment, which also owns Harras and Bally’s and the Showboat. “But it’s really a New Jersey bill.”

Tyrell spoke of destinations and vistas for newlywed wannabes that extend from Jersey City with its views of the Manhattan skyline to Atlantic City and its beaches and boardwalk to Cape May and its gingerbread-like village.

And for those who may have jumped too soon, there’s a provision that lawmakers have taken to calling the “Kardashian amendment,’ recalling the Hollywood celebutante Kim Kardashian who’s flash-in-the-pan wedding prompted the sponsor to put in an escape hatch.

Under the bill, anyone who entered into a same-day wedding could have it annulled before the first 30 days elapsed.

Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll, R-25, Morristown, asked Greenwald to consider increasing court filing fees from the current $250 to help cover the cost of wrong-headed decisions, but Greenwald said he’d prefer to see whether there’s a run on the courts first for such annulments. He doubted there would be.

John Tomicki, with the League of American Families, opposed the bill because of the annulment provision, saying it could lead to too many pitfalls. He used as an example a child conceived in those first 30 days or people marrying merely for immigration purposes.

Lawmakers appeared to downplay the fee increase that’s part of the bill. The cost of a marriage or civil union license would jump from $28 to $60. The money would go to into a trust fund for domestic violence victims.

Lawmakers appeared to downplay the fee increase that’s part of the bill. The cost of a marriage or civil union license would jump from $28 to $60. The increase is split up this way: Five dollars goes to the local licensing office; bringing that fee to $8. Twenty-two dollars goes to the state budget for a new influx of taxpayer cash. And five dollars would go into a trust fund for domestic violence victims.

Lawmakers would not provide an estimate today on how much new revenue the government hopes to raise with the increased fees.

There was no mention of the fee increase in Greenwald’s press release announcing that the bill had been released from committee.

Bill advances to pave an easier, but costlier road to marriage, civil union for the lovestruck