Thursday, December 11, 2008

Landmark Report Finds Inequality Inherent in Two Separate Institutions

After eighteen public meetings, 26 hours of oral testimony and hundreds of pages of written submission from more than 150 witnesses, the New Jersey Civil Union Review Commission issued its final report entitled, The Legal, Medical, Economic and Social Consequences of New Jersey’s Civil Union Act. In the report, the Commission recommends that the Legislature change state law "to allow same-sex couples to marry" and to do so "expeditiously because any delay in marriage equality will harm all the people of New Jersey." This historic report and its recommendations were endorsed by a 13 to 0 vote of the Commissioners, with no abstentions.

The Commission is an independent body composed of 13 members created two years ago to evaluate the impact of the civil union law, which was meant to provide rights and responsibilities of marriage under another name. Its purpose is to (a) evaluate how effective the civil union law has been in providing equality to same-sex couples, particularly in comparison to marriage equality, and (b) make recommendations to the Governor and the State Legislature, if the Commission deems necessary, on what legislation they should enact to guarantee full equality to same-sex couples in New Jersey. The 13 members of the Commission include not only LGBT leaders, but also a right-to-life Republican along with two clergy and six government officials representing an Administration that had opposed marriage equality in the courts.

Governor Jon Corzine agreed that the State’s civil union law “hasn’t done enough to narrow the gap,” and believes marriage should be extended to same-sex couples “sooner rather than later.” He encouraged the State Legislature to “seriously review” the Commission’s report since it found “that civil unions may have widened the gap and fostered inequity by creating a separate class of relationships.” Corzine went on to say, “while the administration is focused squarely on the economic crisis for the foreseeable future, it’s clear that this issue of civil rights must be addressed sooner rather than later.”

Groups like Garden State Equality are rallying supporters tonight to gather in Collingswood, NJ to express support of the Commission’s recommendations to extend marriage equality to same-sex couples. Meanwhile other groups like the New Jersey Coalition to Preserve and Protect Marriage’s continue to request that legislators amend the state’s constitution by defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. If you live in or around the Collingswood area, please consider attending tonight’s rally to visibly express your support for marriage equality. If you cannot attend, please contact your state legislator and encourage them to adopt the Commission’s recommendations expeditiously.

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