Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Civil Unions now available in NJ

For those who didn't know, yesterday was the first day Civil Unions can be performed and are recognized in our fair state for same sex couples. For social fundamentalists, this goes too far. For others, as one lesbian friend of mine put it, "we're still talking about sitting at the back of the bus." One of my married friends is fond of saying "if they want to be as miserable as the rest of us, let them." For me, it's kind of a Ferris Bueller moment, it still doesn't change the fact I don't have a girlfriend.

While not necessarily in agreement as to what to call civil unions/marriage, it would seem the majority of Democrats and Independents, as well as a healthy number of moderate and true conservative Republicans in New Jersey support the idea of providing equal rights to same-sex couples under the law, as afforded to citizens by the 14th amendment. This leaves the social fundamentalist Republicans, such as Representative Scott Garrett, leading the way against granting any rights to same-sex couples. Back in August of 2004, Garrett went on Crossfire with James Carville and Robert Novack as the co-hosts. Carville and Garrett had the following exchange:

CARVILLE: Congressman, do you have the Kerry-Cheney position that we should not have this constitutional amendment on gay marriage or do you have the Bush-Falwell position that we should? Which one is your position, Kerry Cheney or the Bush-Falwell?
GARRETT: No, I have the Bush-American people on this.
CARVILLE: The Bush-Falwell. So you're with the Bush-Falwell
GARRETT: The Bush-American people.
CARVILLE: I got you. OK.
Garrett's stance ignores the 58% of NEW JERSEY voters opposed to such a move. Last year, the Constitutional Amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman was introduced, with Garrett as an original co-sponsor.

Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman.
The voters of Michigan passed a similarly worded ban amending their state constitution a few years ago, and after a recent court ruling by elected judges, public universities and state and local governments are now banned from providing health insurance to gay couples. This ruling is being appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court, which is also an elected body. Some have argued this might cause a backlash against those pushing for the amendment, because they advertised that this would not impact the health care benefits or life insurance policies offered to public employees (at least 375 people and their families).

That "legal incidents" part of Garrett's amendment is where equal protection is thrown out the window. No health or life insurance, hospital visitation rights or inheritance benefits just to name a few. On his website, Garrett echoes other social fundamentalists saying defending the Sanctity of Marriage is his number one family priority. In fact, marriage is so sacred in his eyes, Garrett cites tax-credits as a reason to get married, kind of like picking a Limited Liability Corporation over a sole-proprietorship.

Before our State Court's decision I wondered openly about how this debate would look if we stripped the word married from the tax code. If every married couple, domestic partnership, civil union, etc. fell into an orientation neutral category, and the definition of marriage was left to individual churches to decide, would we even be having this argument? I still think this may be the best way to grant committed couples equal protection under the law. When/if I meet another woman I'd like to spend the rest of my life with, I would hope to get married. After the church service, I've got to believe we'd be secure enough in our relationship it wouldn't matter to us what the government referred to us as on our 1040.

1 comment:

Jill said...

It should be called "marriage."


Whether conservatives like it or not, this country is not run on Biblical law. And if they want to talk about Biblical law, then let's see an end to the ham and macaroni and cheese church suppers in the South, shall we?

I have been married for almost 21 years. In 2005 I went to a gay wedding. Not only was it the loveliest wedding I ever attended, but I'm still marriage. Gay marriage in no way threatens straight marriage -- unless the "straight" marriage involves someone like Ted Haggard.