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Fuentes, Taliaferro & Garcia Bill to Expedite Marriage Applications When One Partner is Terminally Ill Advances

Legislation Named “Linette Lebron’s Law” in Honor of Camden Woman Who Married Fiancé One Day Before Passing

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Angel Fuentes, Adam Taliaferro and Carmelo G. Garcia to reduce the waiting period and requirements for couples wishing to enter into a marriage or civil union when one is terminally ill was advanced by the Assembly Judiciary Committee on Thursday.

The bill (A-4426) is known as “Linette Lebron’s Law” in honor of a young woman from Camden whose story inspired Fuentes to introduce the legislation. While battling stage four stomach cancer, Linette and her fiancé Omar Estevez decided to wait on marriage while they focused on her treatment. However, when she was given only days to live, Estevez left her bedside and wasted precious moments traveling between city hall, the hospital, and the courts to seek a waiver to the three-day waiting period for marriage licenses required by law. The couple, with some help from Fuentes, was finally able to secure a license and marry one day prior to Linette’s passing.

“I observed how this process took Omar away from Linette,” said Fuentes (D-Camden/Gloucester). “Those moments are very precious and I understood the level of frustration they felt. It was then I knew we had to do a better job as legislators for couples in this type of situation. It’s my hope that this bill will ease the process for future couples facing similar, tragic circumstances.”

In doing so, the bill would eliminate or reduce the administrative duties and waiting period before the marriage or civil union can be performed when time may be of the essence.

Currently, anyone planning on getting married or entering into a civil union in New Jersey must first obtain a license from a licensing officer and deliver it to the person who is to officiate. There is also a mandatory 72 hour waiting period from the time the application is made until the issuance of the license, unless all or part of that time has been waived by order of the Superior Court. Additionally, the licensing authority also has the option to require in-person testimony under oath concerning the legality of the proposed marriage or civil union.

“There are many couples like Linette and Omar throughout New Jersey who have been forced to jump through hoops during one of the most trying times in their life to fulfill their wish to be married,” said Taliaferro (D-Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem). “We need to change the process so that whatever time they have left can be spent together, not battling unnecessary hurdles.”

Under the bill, the mandatory waiting period would be waived for unions involving a terminally ill patient who is hospitalized and whose illness is certified to the licensing officer by the treating physician. The bill defines “terminally ill” to mean an illness or sickness that can reasonably be expected to result in death in 12 months or less.

“Linette Lebron’s life is a tragic reminder of what’s really important in life,” said Garcia (D-Hudson). “The last thing we want to see is bureaucracy standing in the way of someone’s last wish. Hopefully this legislation will help other couples realize their dream and spend as much time as they have left together where it matters most.”

In addition, the bill would allow a terminally ill patient to obtain a marriage or civil union license via: (1) the appearance of an attorney-in-fact by one or both parties; or (2) telephonic communication, under oath and verified by a witness of legal age, with the licensing officer.

The measure now awaits consideration by the full Assembly.