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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

NEWS: Failure rate of New Jersey Civil Union Law GETS WORSE

Wednesday, July 18, 2007 -- As of today, five months after New Jersey's Civil Union Law took effect, at least 1 in every 7 civil-unioned couples in New Jersey is being denied equal protection under the law.

In today's meeting of the New Jersey Civil Unions Review Commission, the state registrar reported that 1,359 couples have gotten civil-unioned in New Jersey since the law took affect on February 19, 2007.

During the same five-month period, 191 civil-unioned couples have reported to Garden State Equality that their employers refuse to recognize their civil unions. That is a 14 percent, or 1 in 7, failure rate, at least.

During the first four months of the law, the failure rate had been at least 1 in 8, demonstrating that employers have not increased their acceptance of the law as they've become more familiar with it. Employers are actually becoming more resistant.

"What society would tolerate a law's failing 1 in 7 times?" said Steven Goldstein, chair of Garden State Equality. "If New Jersey's Civil Unions Law were a person, it would be arrested for committing fraud."

In fact, the law's failure rate is likely way higher than 1 in 7 because the 191 couples encompass only those who have come to Garden State Equality. The New Jersey Division on Civil Rights reports it is hearing from 90 couples a month inquiring about problems with civil union implementation -- which would be potentially 450 couples.

The Star-Ledger recently ran a front-page story, picked up by news organizations across the country, on how one company, United Parcel Service, refuses to provide equal benefits to civil-unioned employees in New Jersey even though UPS provides equal benefits to its employees in Massachusetts who are married to same-sex spouses there.

Today's new numbers demonstrate that the failure of New Jersey's civil unions law goes way beyond UPS. The 191 cases that have come to Garden State Equality involve almost 191 companies.

Many of these companies point to a provision in Federal law that allows them to ignore the laws of various states that recognize same-sex relationships. This begs the question: If Federal law is the problem, what difference would it make to call same-sex relationships "marriage" rather than "civil union"?

A big difference. The Washington Post recently did an investigation in which it reported that companies in Massachusetts are hardly ever using federal law as an excuse to deny equal benefits to same-sex couples married in that state. Even with the problem of federal law, same-sex couples married in Massachusetts, as that state’s law allows are getting equality. Civil-unioned couples in New Jersey are not.

"Month after month, as new statistics of the Civil Unions Law's failure are released, there's tragically no improvement in acceptance of the law," said Goldstein. "Civil unions just don't work in the real world. Marriage is the only currency of commitment the real world consistently accepts. And the only way to New Jersey will ever see equality is to give same-sex and opposite sex couples the same freedom to marry."

If you have gotten civil-unioned in New Jersey and your employer is not recognizing your civil union, please contact Garden State Equality as soon as possible. E-mail us your story, including your name and phone number, to Contact@GardenStateEquality.org. We will keep all information confidential. Garden State Equality chair Steven Goldstein is at cell (917) 449-8918. Garden State Equality deputy director David Smith is at cell (908) 917-0654. Thanks so much.

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