Commission Reveals Law's Flaws

NJ Civil Unions Failing, Says Official

Despite what well-meaning politicians may say, civil unions are not the same as marriage. Not convinced? Just look at New Jersey, which has been officially recognizing civil unions for the past eight months.

New Jersey’s 8-month-old civil union law has failed to live up to its promise of giving same-sex couples all the protections of marriage by another name, the state’s top official for enforcing civil rights said yesterday.

Civil Rights Director Frank Vespa-Papaleo, who chairs a commission that recently concluded three hearings on how the new law is working, said, “To me as a commissioner, the testimony revealed overwhelmingly that the civil union law has been a failure. It is not working as effectively as if the word ‘marriage’ were used… That could be controversial. I could lose my job for saying that.”

Vespa-Papaleo cites the UPS debacle: the international courier originally – and rightfully – refused to treat civil unions as marriages, but finally folded to Governor Jon Corzine’s political wishes. as a prime example of the law’s failings.

Still, some wonder whether or not activists should be pushing for marriage ahead of the election. Such an issue could further divide the already shaky state. As Corzine press secretary Lilo Stainton says, the issue could be “hijacked by the right wing.”

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  • Rt. Rev. Dr. RES

    Civil unions are meant to accomplish two goals. It provides certain states rights without marriage and it provides the DLC like Corzine with political cover since the DLC nominee, whomever he or she may be, will be pro-civil union and anti-marriage. The polls tell them that marriage will defeat them, so justice doesn’t have the requisite votes to support equality and liberty and justice for all….yet.

  • hisurfer

    I’m not ready to register for a Jersey paper just to read the whole article. Does it ever spell out exactly how civil unions don’t measure up?

  • Alexa

    They don’t give any actual examples, just acknowledge that couples are being denied benefits that they would get if married – which is not what was intended. The NJ courts originally said same sex couples should be given ALL the rights etc of marriage, but said it didn’t need to be called marriage. Unfortunately, as we expected, it hasn’t worked out like that, and many couples are not getting the benefits they are legally entitled to, and others are legally being denied benefits because of technicalities in wording.

  • Half Civil Unioned Couple

    The NJ Civil Union Review Commission recently completed a series of hearings to determine whether civil unions were working in NJ. The FREE transcripts of those hearings are available online at

    I encourage everyone to read for yourself the stories of dozens of same-sex couples whose civil unions were not recogonized by employers, hospitals, and even some government offices!

  • George

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, we can’t rely on civil unions, domestic partnerships or anything other than marriage to protect our families.

    I’ve been making an effort to talk to the people in my life about why the freedom to marry is so important to the LGBT community. The Let California Ring campaign has a lot of useful resources on their site:

    If we can open the hearts and minds of people in key states like New Jersey and California, we can really make a difference!

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