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The Blog of the U.S.'s first GLBTI-specific Wedding and Events firm. Discussion spot for clients and visitors to interact with savvyplanners.com staff and experts, in an informal forum, regarding Gay Weddings or Same-Sex Marriage, LGBT weddings and Traditional weddings and other issues affecting the GLBTI.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Equalist

Horseshoes and Hand Grenades?
NJ Gov signs civil unions bill
By MW Savant, CEO savvyplanners.com

While civil unions are now recognized by the state of New Jersey is there still something missing?

Well, frankly, yes. Though the recent bill is a gigantic, positive step toward total marriage equality in New Jersey, there are many documented stories from same gender loving GLBTI people who, when faced with a crisis, are flatly refused the rights of their heterosexual counterparts. To be sure, there is a good deal for which to be appreciative in this development, however, I cannot help feeling a bittersweet smile come over me in celebration.

Civil Unions are not marriage. Therefore, though I'm pretty close to being equal to my non-GLBTI fellow New Jerseyans, it feels a bit dolefully and clearly unequal. There are many aspects of the bill which give me pause.

I am buoyed by the knowledge that there will be an advisory committee to examine where the bill falls short and, more importantly, what the effects of those shortcomings are. I give thanks to Garden State Equality for creating this "pathbreaking commission, conceived by Garden State Equality, that will investigate and report how the law falls short of marriage equality."

The valid and serious concerns remain.

For example: When a person in a couple goes to visit their loved one in hospital, and is denied the right to retain and protect the ring of their partner. She is told that the rings cannot be placed in her care until they receive permission from her partner's next of kin, since they are not "married". This would not happen to a "married" couple. Ever.

or perhaps: My married next door neighbor and I are on the same train and there is an accident. We're both taken to the ER. We've both been partnered for twenty years and there are crucial care and treatment decisions to be made for us both. My neighbor's wife is permitted, no...invited to make those decisions on behalf of her husband. I, who might have no living, blood relative, am denied the opportunity and the right to have someone with my best interests at heart to protect and represent me? Unthinkable. Yet it has happened and continues to happen today. This, too, would never happen to a "married" couple.

To quote Garden State Equality Chair, Steven Goldstein, from a recent member e-mail:

"Of course, we have to keep our state's latest advancements in perspective. Civil unions are not marriage equality. Expecting gay people to be totally jubilant over civil unions, when we're aiming for true marriage equality, is like asking us to eat Jim Crow. Civil unions institutionalize the segregation of gays versus straights in New Jersey.

"But today we can still celebrate -- not a result, but rather our journey. Today marks a step on the march of gay couples toward equality in New Jersey. Real marriage equality is in our grasp.

"During committee hearings, during the debate on the full floor of the Assembly and Senate, and today during the civil union bill's signing, legislator after legislator said that civil unions fall short of the equality ideal, and that the new law is but an interim step toward revisiting marriage equality soon..."

I have read accounts of statements made by NJ legislators which absolutely confirm that they are aware of the inequities that exist in the bill as it stands today. Am I happy about the bill? Yes.

Am I thankful toward the legislators for the courageous steps that they took to bring us closer to 100% marriage equality in the state of New Jersey? Yes.

Am I entitled to and will I receive (by virtue of this bill) the same rights, privileges and responsibilities as my fellow New Jerseyans? Yes. Almost.

Am I equal to every other resident of my state with regard to marriage equality and not having to go into some ramble about being '"civilunionated (absurd, isn't it)" which the law states that you, healthcare provider, now must allow my "civilunionate" to have the power to make a decision on my behalf and in my best interest?"

There are already people saying that they will IGNORE the law or choose not to follow it, in opposition. Even public servants.

Am I equal? Sadly, no. Not yet! Intelligence and logic; fairness and humane-ness will prevail. We will be equal. In every way, in the great state of New Jersey. There is no gray area in equality.

It'll be so much simpler. Won't it?

I want my relationship to be instantly understood and respected for the very serious thing it is. Just like Mr. & Mrs. Neighbor, next door. Note that I did not say 'accepted'. Nor did I say 'agreed with' or 'approved of'.

Nothing could be more simple, genuine and crystal clear than to just say "I'm married" and have absolutely anyone on earth know precisely what that means and how significant my relationship is to me and the person I'll walk through life's fires for.

We can and will make all New Jerseyans equal in their relationships. I look forward to the sunrise on that morning.

© MW Savant, All Rights Reserved

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