Say It With Me…Gay Civil Unions Do Not Equal Marriage

In past posts here on the need for equality for gay men and women in relation to the marriage issue, I have likened civil unions to children sitting at a separate table during the holidays.  No matter how you slice it there is a difference between the two and no one really can argue the point successfully.  The same is true with gay civil unions versus the right of marriage for straight men and women.  There is only one way to get all the rights, benefits, and social recognition in a relationship and that is through the bonds of marriage. 

When New Jersey became the third state to allow for same sex couples to be joined through civil unions many were happy.  Both gay and straight saw the New Jersey decision as a win.  While I was pleased that society was moving forward with gay rights and trying to tackle the marriage issue, I was not pleased with the half-a-loaf outcome that the Garden State decided to follow.  The New Jersey Supreme Court had found their Constitution “guarantees that every statutory right and benefit conferred to heterosexual couples through civil marriage must be made available to committed same-sex couples,” and told the legislative body to correct the problem. 

Even though the logical and morally correct option was full and complete marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples a decision was made to create civil unions.  The fact that it is not working should not surprise any of us who undersood the issue then, and care about it now.  As The New York Times reported this week there are many issues that ONLY gay marriage can solve.

Nevertheless, residents who work for companies headquartered in other states, and those whose insurers are based outside New Jersey, have found it difficult if not impossible to sign their partners up for health insurance. Unions and employers whose self-insured plans are federally regulated have also denied coverage in some cases. Staff members in doctors’ offices and emergency rooms have questioned partners’ role in decision-making. Confusion abounds over the interplay of state and federal laws governing taxes, inheritance and property.

Some 229 couples obtained civil unions in New Jersey in the first month they were available. Gay-rights advocates say they have collected two dozen discrimination complaints, laying the groundwork for a legal challenge to the civil union law that would essentially re-petition the Supreme Court for same-sex marriage.

And well they should!  There is no…..absolutely NO…..reason…other than pure unadulterated bigotry for marriage to be denied to gay couples.  Both Connecticut and California are also experiencing similar problems with civil unions/domestic partnership arrangements and therefore are examining their legal options.

Cases such as one mentioned in The New York Times story this week makes the case (again) for the need for marriage.

Timothy Zimmer, a computer programmer who works in Newark for a Massachusetts company he declined to name, said his insurance company, United Healthcare, had told him that his partner would not be covered even if they got a civil union.

“First, the NJ civil union is not deemed to be a marriage under NJ law,” the insurer wrote in an e-mail message to him. “Therefore there is no ‘spouse’ as defined in the MA plan. The MA law recognizes marriages between members of the same sex only for marriages performed in MA between MA residents. Since the NJ members are not ‘married’ under either NJ or MA law, there is no ‘spouse’ eligible for coverage as a dependent.”

Mr. Zimmer, 52, said in an interview last week, “Apparently the civil union law gave us all the rights of marriage, except the ones we really need.”

As I wrote on February 19th, ‘separate but equal’ is a wrong policy.

Some may call this ‘almost marriage’ but history is my guide, and proves ’separate but equal’ is a wrong policy.

The fact that marriage and all the rights that follow cannot be replicated by any other social contract, including civil unions, is the main reason I have problems with the outcome from the Garden State. When we say the word marriage we all know what it means both in tangible and intangible ways. There is no way to shortcut the path to justice.

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