Friday, May 25, 2007

NJ Companies Continue to Thumb Noses at Civil Unions

NJ Companies Continue To Thumb Noses At Civil Unions
by Newscenter Staff

Posted: May 22, 2007 - 7:00 pm ET

(Trenton, New Jersey) A growing number of companies are refusing to recognize the state's civil unions law, denying benefits to the same-sex partners of employees.

The state Department of Health and Senior Services said Monday that 852 same-sex couple had applied to enter civil unions in the three months since the law took effect.

The low number took some lawmakers by surprise but LGBT rights advocates say it shows a dissatisfaction with the law. Garden State Equality's Steven Goldstein said that most same-sex couples are holding out for full marriage.

Although the civil unions law gives same-sex couples the same rights and responsibilities as marriage it is not recognized by a growing number of companies - all with federally regulated benefit plans.

Under the federal so-called Defense of Marriage Act the federal government does not recognize same-sex marriage. The law allows those insurers to reject same-sex couples.

Nearly one in eight couples who have had civil unions have been turned down for company benefits 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.

"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," Goldstein said.
"Unless a couple's relationship is given the imprimatur of marriage, that couple may never see the rights. Marriage is the only admissions ticket to equality universally recognized in the real world. It's the only currency of commitment the real world always accepts."

© 2007

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