Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit today for marriage equality on behalf of Garden State Equality, the LGBT advocacy organization in New Jersey, and seven same-sex couples. New Jersey currently offers "civil unions" or "domestic partnerships," which are designed to provide the same legal protections as marriage.
Today's lawsuit directly targets the civil union law, which has contributed to a confusing and ultimately unequal system since it was enacted in 2007. Civil unions, the lawsuit argues, promote a separate and unequal status and instigate harm outside of the state of New Jersey. The Lambda Legal press release explains:
"The constitutional guarantee of equality under the law does not stop midway through the Lincoln Tunnel," said Hayley Gorenberg, Lambda Legal Deputy Legal Director. "Our clients have been kept from each other during medical crises, denied health insurance, and even discriminated against in funeral homes because their civil unions relegate them to second-class status. New Jersey's same-sex couples have been stuck in a limbo caused by the confusion and indignity of living with an inferior status."
"By now, everybody in New Jersey knows that civil unions don't work," said Steven Goldstein, Chair and CEO of Garden State Equality. "Since civil unions became law in New Jersey, Garden State Equality has received reports from a multitude of civil union couples who have told us their employers refuse to provide the equal rights and benefits the civil union law mandates. It's time for the courts to fix this mess and give full marriage equality to New Jersey's same-sex couples and their children."
In court papers filed today, Lambda Legal addressed how New Jersey's civil unions fall short. Civil unions place same-sex couples in an inferior status to different-sex couples. Without full marriage equality, same-sex couples are denied workplace benefits and protections equal to those accorded to married people, and they are blocked from seeing their loved ones during medical emergencies. The exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage deprives them and their children of their dignity as a family and certainty in their legal rights and status to each other.