Civil Unions Just Not Cutting It

Several N.J. couples to file lawsuit against the Garden State over marriage rights

Gay marriage or civil unions? There’s a lot packed into these two very different definitions under the law. And for seven gay and lesbian couples in New Jersey, civil unions simply aren’t good enough.

Garden State Equality says that the couples are filing a lawsuit against the state, arguing that the current laws which allow same-sex couples to apply for civil unions are not providing the same legal protections as marriage. With the help of Lambda Legal in Trenton, they hope to gain the same rights in the Garden State as gay and lesbian couples have recently been afforded in New York: the right to legally marry.

The reason for the lawsuit, according to the Associated Press, comes down to personal experiences with discrimination. The AP reports that one of the couples faced problems when one of the men (hit and nearly killed by a car) needed his partner to make an urgent medical decision for him. Instead, the injured man’s sister had to step in.

Another couple – together for 24 years with two adopted daughters – reportedly had a child’s health insurance canceled. Still another couple has to “jump through legal hoops” to adopt the couple’s baby. They carry a binder with the child’s birth certificate everywhere they go, always having to prove their relationship in doctors’ offices.

Garden State Equality has created a new initiative Civil Unions Don’t Work that brings attention to the discrepancies between marriage and unions.

The claim says: “The separate and inherently unequal statutory scheme singles out lesbians and gay men for inferior treatment on the basis of their sexual orientation and sex and also has a profoundly stigmatizing effect on them, their children and other lesbian and gay New Jerseyans.”

Civil unions have been performed in N.J. since 2006, when the court ordered that lawmakers must extend equal legal rights to same-sex couples. Current Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, has already said this week that he opposes gay marriage and would veto any bill that may be approved by the Democratic-controlled legislature.

“I don’t want same-sex couples to be deprived of legal rights,” said Christie on a radio show recently. “Marriage is an institution that has centuries-old implications in both religious and cultural institutions. I believe it should remain between one man and one woman.”

Here, several couples tell their stories: