CommunityPam's House Blend

NJ companies stiff couples with civil unions

New Jersey legislators are surprised at the lack of response to the separate-but-allegedly-equal civil unions. Only 852 couples have applied for a CU license so far. Many couples are holding out for true marriage equality.

This is the reason why those people are waiting separate is not proving to be equal as businesses with federally regulated insurance/benefit plans are citing the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) to reject gay and lesbian couples.

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.”

Personally, I see these rejections as a good thing. Strategically speaking, “settling” for civil unions and domestic partnerships allows a few things to happen — 1) couples who had no legal recognition before may receive some benefit from them, and 2) inevitably, because of the federal DOMA and bigots out there, CUs and DPs are going to be shown to be inferior to marriage; and 3) it will eliminate the fantasy faux position of the top-tier 2008 Dem presidential candidates who have taken the ill-defined position of supporting civil unions as a magical solution that lets them off the hook — giving gays and lesbians a bone while clinging onto the institution of marriage.

Either you believe in equality or you don’t. Cases like this in NJ, where civil rights are butting up against DOMA and institutions continue to refuse to recognize marriage equivalency on paper, will eliminate the phony sales pitch of separate but equal.

So, letting civil unions and domestic partnerships fail in these circumstances, while painful is what we need to see right now. I know that there are those of you out there that say we should strive for marriage equality without half-measures, but from where I sit, there won’t be any success on this front for a long while to come. That requires changes in hearts and minds and the education of the masses that simply isn’t happening as fast as the wingers can pass legislation.

The final call will be in the courts, and it will be sooner rather than later. It has to happen because fundies are going to continue on their amendment warpath regardless of these incremental advances. We will no doubt build a long list of persuasive incidents like this and that will bolster marriage equality cases that head to the Supreme Court case. The bible beaters are just as panicked about the courts not going their way as we are.

Flashback: From BlueJersey.net‘s ThinkEqual campaign: a discussion between two women – one married, the other in a civil union – and they compare what their unions have in common — and the ways that “equality” can stop at the door when it comes down to real-life circumstances.

(See the other ads here.)

Related:
* Civil unions: more on less.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding

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