NJ Civil Unions: Separate But Not So Equal

An update from 365gay reveals that many New Jersey companies are either ignorant of or are refusing to recognize the state’s new civil union laws:

Nj_2“Nearly one in eight couples who have had civil unions have been turned down for company benefits [Garden State Equality’s Steven] Goldstein said. Among the cases that have come to Garden State Equality, said Goldstein is one involving a woman who told her employer she and her partner had a civil union and was told by the company, ‘We’re not going to provide benefits. We still need the word ‘marriage’ and you two aren’t married.’ Goldstein said the couple have been together 16 years and have adopted three special needs children. ‘New Jersey should be celebrating such couples,’ said Goldstein. ‘Instead, civil-unioned couples across New Jersey are still being denied equal protection of the law.’ Goldstein said it is time the Legislature amended the law to provide for marriage.”

Added Goldstein, “For those who ask, ‘So long as same-sex couples get the rights, who cares what it’s called?’ the New Jersey experience has answered the question once and for all.”


  1. Jonathon says

    “For those who ask, ‘So long as same-sex couples get the rights, who cares what it’s called?’ the New Jersey experience has answered the question once and for all.”

    That hits the nail squarely on the head.

    That is exactly why the word “marriage” matters. People do not equate “civil union” with marriage. We’ve tried the “separate but unequal” thing long enough. What we must demand is full-equality in marriage rights. There is no other outcome that will give us the same rights as heterosexuals.

    Now, is that too much to ask?

  2. Zeke says

    Oh, but that’s not possible. Stephen, and others here, have told us over and over again that these Civil Unions give ALL of the rights and benefits of marriage.

    Well Stephen, what say ye now?

  3. MIKE says

    I live and work in New Jersey and I can tell you for a fact that companies that do business in the state still refuse benefits to gay and lesbian workers. Even a health care corporation such as I work for is attempting to limit their domestic partner benefits and backtrack to deny any benefits at all except to employees that are “legally married.” Apparently, they feel that the disparity between what the state recognizes as a valid relationship and what the federal government does is too much to be bothered with and it’s just easier to go back to benefits for married people only.

    Separate but equal did not work for African Americans in the 20th century and it will not work for gays in the 21st. A rose by any other name apparently doesn’t smell as sweet. Demand marriage now!!

  4. Ed says

    I agree that this is separate but equal status does not work. In fact, I think the approach the legislature took belied a certain wisdom. Being a New Jerseyan, I found most people fair and tolerant but calling it marriage made some nervous. The legislature took a simple approach. They will start with civil unions and if they worked, all well and good. However, if they failed (which they have), they trusted most people(read: voters)would see the inequity and would support a change to marriage. Without the evidence of “separate but equal” not working, I think marriage would have faced a bigger challenge.

    Keep in mind, (despite Fox wrongly portraying the NJ Supreme Court as a split decision) our Supreme Court unanimously backed equal rights. The split on the court was that 3 justices felt the decision did not gar far enough in promoting equal rights and felt the court decision should require the legislature to call it marriage. So all 7 were for equal rights: 4 for civil unions and 3 for marriage.

  5. says

    “We hold these truths to be selfevident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among them is life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, Governments are instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

  6. mark m says

    Yeah I’m still waiting to hear how Stephen proposes to fix this, since the answer is obviously NOT to expect Marriage rights, since, you know, we don’t deserve to call it that.

  7. says

    Hi, Zeke – in you post above, you write “Stephen, and others here, have told us over and over again that these Civil Unions give ALL of the rights and benefits of marriage. Well Stephen, what say ye now?”

    I’m not sure if you’re referring to me, Steven – with a V as in Very gay. But my organization Garden State Equality and I have for years spent our lives – indeed talked our kishkas out day and night on this – that civil unions, becasue they don’t work in the real world, do NOT provide all the rights and benefits of marriage. In fact, some gay activists outside New Jersey have sent me the most inane e-mails for a very long time along the lines of, “Why are you so critical of civil unions – why can’t you be happy?”

  8. yoshi says

    I interviewed at a company in northern Jersey a few months ago. When I asked about Domestic Partnership benefits I got a blank stare and a “can we get back to you on that”. By the time I walked out the door I was handed an envelope with a statement fully supporting the recent changes in laws and spelled out the process. I turned down the job for other reasons (like having to move to jersey) but learned later that I was the first one that ever asked and they literally came up with the policy with their lawyers the day I was there.

    And I think thats part of the problem – during interviews – do you ask? I learned from my friends that very few of them do which I view as disappointing. I’ve learned from experience that educating your own companies can be fruitful. Policies change but that will only happen if you press your organization and back it up by walking out if they don’t.

  9. Zeke says

    No Steven, I wasn’t talking about you. We have a regular here who never misses an opportunity to tell us that gays should never be allowed to marry because they can’t have children “naturally” and because they are “different” than straight couples. It’s like a broken record that no amount of reasoning or personal testimony can fix.

    I’ve actually read A LOT about you and the work that you have done for marriage equality there in NJ. Truth be told, you are one of my HEROES. You’re AMAZING. I’m honored to have the opportunity to tell you how much I appreciate you and your organization. Keep up the great work my friend.

  10. says

    I agree with Zeke, Steven your organization has done AMAZING work. Up until last year I was a New Jersyan born and raised and I received much word of Garden State Equality and its community functions and quiet protests. We gays owe ALOT to the work of GSE because while NJ has way more than its share of gays, out or not, alot of us I feel are quite complacent unfortunately.

  11. Strepsi says

    Go for it guys, marriage is marriage. ANd keep up the “Separate but equal” line, it is too true.

    WIth Civil Unions, the legislators are saying, “No you can’t use our drinking fountain. We have one for you around the corner. It’s exactly the same. But don’t call it a drinking fountain. That’s a nice word. Call yours a ‘water dispensing system’.


    Or — COme to Canada — we have gay soldiers too!
    Good luck
    – Love, Strepsi (married)