State panel urges same-sex marriage for New Jersey
New Jersey should enact a law allowing gay marriage and waste no time passing it because the state's civil unions law fails to adequately protect same-sex couples, a report to be released Wednesday said.
The final report of the New Jersey Civil Union Review Commission says it gathered "overwhelming evidence" that the civil union law not only fails to provide the same protections as marriage, it also has created economic, medical and emotional hardships for gay couples.
The state panel concluded that denying same-sex couples the right to marry is as unjust as government imposing racial segregation laws against African-Americans.
"Separate treatment was wrong then and it is just as wrong now," said the report.
The 79-page report is the work of a 13-member panel created to evaluate the impact of the 2006 civil union law, which was supposed to provide the rights and responsibilities of marriage under another name. It will be forwarded to Gov. Jon Corzine and state lawmakers.
"The report is a sweeping indictment of the failure of the civil union law," said commission vice chairman Steven Goldstein, head of Garden State Equality, which is campaigning to legalize same-sex marriage. "The report asks Governor Corzine and the Legislature: Do you want equality or not? If so, there is only one way to go."
About 3,353 couples have entered into civil unions, according to Goldstein. He said his organization has received 1,502 complaints about civil unions.
Corzine could not be reached for comment on Tuesday. He has said previously he would sign a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, but wanted to deal with the issue after the November presidential election so a possible backlash would not be exploited by conservatives for political gain.
Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts, a Democrat, said the report "should spark a renewed sense of purpose and urgency to overcoming one of society's last remaining barriers to full equality for all residents. As I have said many times before, same-sex marriage in New Jersey is only a matter of `when,' not `if."'
John Tomicki, president of the New Jersey Coalition to Preserve and Protect Marriage and a leading opponent of gay marriage, pledged to make it an issue in next year's state elections.
Massachusetts and Connecticut are the only states that issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. California did until last month, when voters approved a proposition outlawing same-sex marriage.
The commission's interim report in February found civil unions are "not clear to the general public" and confer "second-class status" on the couples who form them.
Three months ago, representatives of the state's Catholic bishops, the Knights of Columbus and other groups held a press conference to denounce the commission as biased, and demanded that it be scrapped and reconstituted.