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Thursday, December 21, 2006




Special report from Trenton


Thursday, December 21, 2006
Steven Goldstein, chair of Garden State Equality

"Except for November 2003, when gay couples in Massachusetts won the freedom to marry, this was one of the most remarkable months in history for a statewide LGBTI community -- anywhere in America.

This month in New Jersey, the state legislature passed, and Governor Corzine signed, four landmark laws: A stem-cell research law and a syringe exchange law, for which our HIV/AIDS activists fought relentlessly; a transgender equality law, making New Jersey the third most populous state in America to protect citizens from discrimination based on gender identity or expression; and a civil unions law, signed by Governor Corzine today, that includes a pathbreaking commission, conceived by Garden State Equality, that will investigate and report how the law falls short of marriage equality. The new civil unions law contains no language defining or describing marriage as between a man and a woman. New Jersey continues to have no Defense of Marriage Act or state constitutional ban on marriage equality.

Since Garden State Equality's founding in 2004, New Jersey has enacted 14 LGBTI civil rights laws at the statewide and county levels.

Garden State Equality thanks Governor Corzine, Senate President Dick Codey, Assembly Speaker Joe Roberts and all the legislative sponsors of these landmark laws for New Jersey's LGBTI community. We also thank the Human Rights Campaign, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Freedom to Marry, the ACLU, the ACLU of New Jersey, MassEquality, GRAANJ and the NJLGC, among other organizations, for being extraordinary partners. Most of all, we extend our deepest gratitude to our beloved partner Lambda Legal and its marriage equality director David Buckel, as well as Lambda Legal's seven plaintiff couples. Without the Lambda Legal team, we would not be this close to marriage equality in New Jersey today.

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.

None of the power centers in New Jersey -- not our public officials, not our activists, and not other opinion leaders -- believes there will be any post-civil union lull in New Jersey's unstoppable momentum toward marriage equality. It is a remarkable political dynamic.

At today's signing, in fact, Senator Loretta Weinberg, chief Senate sponsor of the new civil unions law, was among the several legislators who reiterated support for marriage equality. Senator Weinberg publicly predicted today that New Jersey will enact marriage equality in her next term of office, which begins after the 2007 election.

What's more, since the October 25th New Jersey Supreme Court decision, support in our state legislature for a true marriage equality bill has quadrupled.

For all these reasons, Garden State Equality is extraordinarily optimistic that New Jersey will see marriage equality in two years or less. The momentum is with us.

We'll say it again: Garden State Equality will win marriage equality in New Jersey in two years or less.

The fair-minded citizens of New Jersey understand that civil unions play civil rights roulette with gay couples' lives. In the real world, civil unions will never be accepted like marriage is accepted. In fact, institutions here in New Jersey have already said they won't respect recognition contraptions other than marriage. It is a myth to say the civil unions provide all the rights of marriage without the word marriage. In the real world, civil unions threaten to provide none of the rights of marriage.

Marriage
is
the only currency of commitment the real world universally understands and accepts.

Now it's on to winning real equality in New Jersey. In two years or less.

To donate to Garden State Equality and help New Jersey move from civil unions to marriage equality, you may donate online at www.GardenStateEquality.org.

Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa and Chag Urim Sameach,
Steven Goldstein
Chair, Garden State Equality"

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