In this opinion article, Chris Oliveira addresses practices that undermine protections of New Jersey's civil union law. The state legislature adopted a parallel, all-but-marriage regime as a result of the state Supreme Court's ruling in Lewis v. Harris, 188 N.J. 415 (2006). The Court ruled that it violates the state constitution's guarantee of equal protection to deny same-sex couples the rights and responsibilities (but not the name) of marriage. Oliveira claims that the dissenting opinion in Lewis anticipated the discriminatory consequences of denying same-sex couples the right to marry.
Oliveira describes three examples of discrimination against same-sex couples that are shocking and painful to read. He observes that
[d]uring testimony [last week before the state Senate Judiciary Committee], it was reiterated time and time again that employers, health insurers, and hospitals did not acknowledge the term “civil union” to be synonymous with “marriage,” but those companies conceded that they would have acknowledged a same-sex couple who was married for purposes of health benefits, hospital visitation rights, and other benefits.He concludes:
Plain and simple, the civil union law is legislated inequality. The state-recognized distinction between civil union and marriage is significant: civil unions promote a second-class status for same-sex couples. This distinction promotes unequal treatment of individuals, and it encourages businesses and private citizens to do the same ... [I]t is impractical and heartless to suggest that civil union partners should embrace a convoluted legal system and try to sort out inequalities and discrimination in a time of crisis, when such problems could be avoided entirely by changing the words “civil union” to “marriage.”The Johnsonville Press editors add this helpful note on the status of the New Jersey Freedom of Religion and Equality in Civil Marriage Act (A2978/S1967):
Marriage Equality legislation has currently passed in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The full Senate vote was postponed from its original date on December 10, so that the Assembly could vote first, where it is more likely to pass. The Assembly Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on its version of the bill by January 4, 2010, and if it passes, the legislation will go before the full Assembly and then the full Senate. Finally, if the legislation passes both houses,Governor Jon S. Corzine will sign the bill into law.