Debbie Woodell | No Jersey hitches in gay hitching

DESPITE REPORTS to the contrary, there is no looming crisis for same-sex couples who plan to tie the knot in New Jersey starting next month.

So says Steven Goldstein, head of Garden State Equality, which helped usher in this new era, which officially begins on Feb. 19. "This is the biggest non-story when it comes to gay-rights issues that I've seen in a long time," Goldstein said, adding that he was "mystified" at how this misinformation has snowballed.

Goldstein said that about a dozen mayors, out of 566 statewide, have said they won't perform civil unions because it would violate their Christian values.

Goldstein said it's not entirely a bad thing that those renegade mayors are exposed: "Who would want their relationship sanctified by someone who doesn't like gay people?" The bigger story, he said, is that so many mayors are eager to perform these ceremonies and support civil unions.

Goldstein called the press, particularly the national press, "very out of touch" with New Jersey. "It's as liberal and progressive as a state can be," he said, predicting that the state will revisit this issue and grant full marriage to same-sex couples within the next two years.

No municipality has said it will refuse to issue licenses, the only thing you must get from your home community. Once you do that by showing proper ID and paying a fee, you are free after 72 hours to get whomever you choose to perform your ceremony. It can be any mayor, deputy mayor or other qualified officiant, or a willing ordained minister.

BY FEB. 1, Garden State Equality intends to have on its Web site ( a list of willing officiants. But if couples do run into trouble, they are urged to call the organization at 973-GSE-LGBT "instantly," Goldstein said - and they will be put in touch with lawyers and other experts to help them navigate through this rough patch.

So, keep a watchful eye on how your government officials behave. But don't let it stop you from picking out that china pattern, or setting up your gift registry. There is no need to worry about putting off that wedding. Unless, of course, you just want to wait those couple of years for the real thing. *

Deb Woodell is a Daily News sports desk editor. Her column on lesbian and gay issues appears monthly. Send e-mail to