Seven gay and lesbian couples have joined with LGBT advocacy groups Garden State Equality and Lambda Legal on Wednesday in filing suit against the state of New Jersey demanding their partnerships be recognized as marriages, not as civil unions.
The plaintiffs in the suit say they have endured indifferent treatment since New Jersey began offering civil unions in 2007, even though the 2006 Civil Union Act was supposed to confer same-sex couples nearly all of the rights granted to married couples under New Jersey state law.
The suit contends civil unions are a “badge of inferiority” for same-sex couples. Although civil unions are meant to grant the state’s 5,417 civil union couples the same rights as heterosexual married couples, the suit argues that is far from the case in practical terms.
“Today, New Jersey shunts lesbian and gay couples into the novel and inferior status of ‘civil union,’ while reserving civil marriage only for heterosexual couples,” it read.
Lambda Legal’s Hayley Gorenberg said most people are simply baffled and ignorant to the rights conferred through civil unions.
“If they were married, those problems would be gone. When you say you’re married, it’s universal. You say ‘civil union,’ it’s like you’re speaking another language,” said Gorenberg.
Without full marriage equality, same-sex couples are denied workplace benefits and protections equal to those accorded to married people, and they are blocked from seeing their loved ones during medical emergencies. This exclusion deprives them of certainty in their legal rights and status, and often increases financial burdens, according to Lambda Legal.
“Gov. Christie says no way will there be marriage equality in New Jersey,” said Steven Goldstein, chairman of Garden State Equality, the lead plaintiff in the suit. “And we say no way are we going to listen to him.”