>This is a good day for gay marriage. Another step in the right direction, toward equality.
After allowing civil unions, the New Jersey Civil Union Review Commission has come out with a report that says Civil Unions don’t work, that the only fair, equitable solution, is for New Jersey to join Massachusetts and Connecticut, in allowing gay men and women the right to marry.
Say it with me.
Because, as they say, it is still ‘separate but equal,’ this civil union business. It creates problems for gay couples, and gay couples with children regarding medical care and so on.
A few years back, when we were still living in Miami, Carlos had appendicitis, and we had to rush him to the Mount Sinai on Miami Beach for surgery. Of course, he’s in absolute pain and we have to admit him and fill out paper work and all that rot, but I found something interesting.
They were asking him who to notify, in case of emergency. He pointed to me; the nurse asked if I was his brother, or another family member. I thought I knew where this was going and I tried to jump in before Carlos answered, but I was too late.
He’s my significant other, Carlos said.
The nurse gave us a look, stared at the computer screen for a moment, and then smiled. I get to use the new form, she said. We have a category now for same-sex couples, to put down the contact person as a significant other, or spouse or partner. She told us they hadn’t been able to do so in years past and it created difficulty for gay couples.
Now, I could make decisions for Carlos if necessary. I could stay in the room with Carlos while he was hospitalized. i was allowed to wait in the Family Waiting Room when he had surgery and the doctor came out after the procedure to tell me Carlos was fine.
I would have hated to be at Mount Sinai in ‘years past’ and been denied visitation because I wasn’t family, been denied information because I wasn’t family, denied being treated equally because I wasn’t family.
Of course, now we’re in South Carolina and I don’t know if that same generosity of spirit, that understanding of what makes a family, what makes a couple, exists here. But New Jersey is showing us that it can, and it should.
I don’t want to be treated differently than anyone else, I want to be treated the same.
Panel: N.J. should OK same-sex marriages
Report says civil unions are a harm, not a help
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
BY SUSAN K. LIVIO AND CLAIRE HEININGER
New Jersey should enact a law allowing gay marriage and waste no time passing it because the state’s civil unions law fails to adequately protect same-sex couples, a report to be released today concludes.
The final report of the New Jersey Civil Union Review Commission says it gathered “overwhelming evidence” that the civil union law not only fails to provide the same protections as marriage, it also has created economic, medical and emotional hardships for gay couples.
The commission concluded that denying same-sex couples the right to marry is as unjust as government imposing racial segregation laws against African-Americans.
“Separate treatment was wrong then and it is just as wrong now,” said the report, obtained by The Star-Ledger yesterday.
The 79-page report is the work of a 13-member panel created to evaluate the impact of the 2006 civil union law, which was supposed to provide the rights and responsibilities of marriage under another name. It will be forwarded to Gov. Jon Corzine and the Legislature.
“The report is a sweeping indictment of the failure of the civil union law,” said commission vice chairman Steven Goldstein, head of Garden State Equality, which is campaigning to legalize same-sex marriage. “The report asks Governor Corzine and the Legislature: Do you want equality or not? If so, there is only one way to go.”
As of yesterday, about 3,353 couples have entered into civil unions, according to Goldstein. He said Garden State Equality has received 1,502 complaints about civil unions.
Corzine could not be reached for comment last night. He has said previously he would sign a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, but wanted to deal with the issue after the November presidential election so a possible backlash would not be exploited by conservatives for political gain.
Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts (D-Camden) said the report “should spark a renewed sense of purpose and urgency to overcoming one of society’s last remaining barriers to full equality for all residents. As I have said many times before, same-sex marriage in New Jersey is only a matter of ‘when,’ not ‘if.'”
John Tomicki, president of the New Jersey Coalition to Preserve and Protect Marriage and a leading opponent of gay marriage, pledged last night to make it an issue in next year’s state elections.
Massachusetts and Connecticut are the only states that issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. California did until last month, when voters approved a proposition outlawing same-sex marriage.
The commission’s interim report in February found civil unions are “not clear to the general public” and confer “second-class status” on the couples who form them. The final report says the civil union law “invites and encourages unequal treatment of same-sex couples and their children.”
“In a number of cases, the negative effect of the Civil Union Act on the physical and mental health of same-sex couples and their children is striking, largely because a number of employers and hospitals do not recognize the rights and benefits of marriage for civil union couples,” the report said.
Gina Pastino of Montclair told the commission about a run-in her partner had with an emergency room doctor this summer when Pastino was rushed to the hospital suffering from an irregular heartbeat. The physician “did not understand and hadn’t heard of civil unions before,” Pastino told the commission. He initially refused to share any information with her partner, Naomi Cohen, then did so reluctantly.
“We’ve had this issue every time we go into a health care setting, but this was the worst,” Pastino said in an interview yesterday. “It’s exhausting and frustrating and scary. People just don’t realize the way we are hurt by not being able to say we are married.”
The civil union law also has failed to guarantee health insurance benefits, the report said. With half of all employers in the state self-insured under the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act, they are not required to abide by New Jersey’s civil union law.
Had New Jersey called the union of same-sex partners “marriage,” more companies would be likely to provide health care benefits, according to testimony from labor attorney Rosemarie Cipparulo.
The commission’s recommendation should not surprise opponents of same-sex marriage. Three months ago, representatives of the state’s Catholic bishops, the Knights of Columbus and other groups held a press conference to denounce the commission as biased, and demanded that it be scrapped and reconstituted.
Much of their criticism was directed at J. Frank Vespa-Papaleo, who as the state’s director of civil rights chairs the review commission, as well as Goldstein, the commission’s vice chairman. Both are openly gay.
Tomicki criticized the commission as “set up to have no balance.” He once again called for an amendment to the state constitution defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Tomicki said public polls and his conversations with lawmakers have led him to believe it would pass.
“The ultimate result should be the people should decide the definition of marriage,” Tomicki said. “The biggest thing the commission is afraid of is the ballot box.”
Goldstein said he didn’t believe an anti-gay marriage effort would gain traction in New Jersey.