Highlights Holes In "Disastrous" Laws

UPS Denies NJ Civil Unions

Steve Goldstein warned of this moment.

The New Jersey gay activist knew that The Garden State’s civil union laws left too many loopholes, loopholes United Parcel Service (UPS) has used to withhold health benefits from same-sex couples.

One couple had to learn about New Jersey’s legislative glitch the hard way. Gabriael “Nickie” Brazier and her partner Heather Aurand had hoped for coverage, which would save them a few hundred dollars a month. They didn’t get it.

New Jersey Ledger‘s Robert Schwaneberg reports:

In its letter denying coverage, UPS said it does provide health benefits to its employees’ spouses, including spouses of the same sex who are married in Massachusetts. But it said New Jersey’s decision to recognize same-sex relationships as civil unions rather than marriages tied its hands.

In its letter, UPS said the New Jersey Legislature, in enacting the state’s civil union law, “did not go as far as Massachusetts and afford same-sex couples the ability to marry. Had the New Jersey Legislature done that, you could have added Ms. Aurand as a spouse under the plan.”

The letter concluded that “New Jersey law does not treat civil unions the same as marriages.”

The international courier contends that New Jersey’s civil unions do not qualify as marriage, despite what politicos may say. One of the laws sponsors, Democratic Assemblyman Wilfredo Caraballo, can’t seem to understand UPS’ rationale, We made it clear through the language and the intent that when it came to issues like this, we fully expected civil-unioned couples would be covered. As an international company, UPS explains that its following federal law – or, at least, federal definitions of marriage. That law, however, gives companies the option of weighing civil unions and marriages equally. The inconsistencies between federal and state laws highlight America’s skewed sense of justice, says Goldstein, director of Garden State Equality:

This is a problem the Legislature created. Civil unions are never in our lifetime going to be respected by employers like marriage.

They know it’s a disaster. In the real world, civil unions are to marriage what artificial sweetener is to sugar. It’s not the same thing and it leaves a bad aftertaste.

Rumor has it lawmakers are looking to take the issue up in 2008. Until then, well, keep your Listerine handy.