Kicking A Lion

…hear us roar

Report: New Jersey Should Allow Gay Marriage

CAMDEN, N.J. (AP)  — New Jersey should pass a law that allows gay couples to get married, a state commission says in a report to be released Wednesday.

According to the final report of the Civil Union Review Commission, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, the state’s two-year-old civil union law does not do enough to give gay couples the same protections as heterosexual married couples.
“This commission finds that the separate categorization established by the Civil Union Act invites and encourages unequal treatment of same-sex couples and their children,” the report says. The finding of the commission’s 13 members was unanimous.
The report could signal that a debate over whether New Jersey should become the first state to allow gay marriage by passing a law, rather than by a court mandate, could be starting soon.
“The commission’s 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,” said Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts Jr., a Democrat from Camden and one of the key figures in setting the Legislature’s agenda.
Robert Corrales, a spokesman for Gov. Jon S. Corzine, said the governor would not comment on the report until it was presented. But in the past, Corzine has said that he would sign a bill allowing gay marriage.
Currently, Connecticut and Massachusetts are the only states to allow gay marriage. Both did so by the order of the top courts in their states. Earlier this year, the top court in California said it was unconstitutional to deny gay couples the right to marry, but that decision was trumped by a constitutional amendment approved by voters last month.
Even before the commission report, New Jersey supporters and opponents of gay marriage were girding for a debate.
Twice in the past week, the New Jersey Family Policy Council, which believes marriage should be defined as being between one man and one woman, sent an e-mail to thousands of supporters asking for help in the looming political battle.
In 2006, New Jersey’s top court ruled that same-sex couples had the right to the same benefits as married couples and told lawmakers to figure out how to make it happen.

The Legislature’s rapid response was to become one of handful of states to offer civil unions, which offer the legal protections of marriage, but stop short of calling the relationship marriage.

A provision of that law established the Civil Union Review Commission to assess how it worked out.
Immediately, gay rights advocates called for a push toward full marriage.
Nearly as immediately, conservative activists criticized the study commission, claiming that it was made up of people who favored gay marriage and that the commission’s recommendation was predetermined.

Several conservative groups boycotted the commission for that reason.
On Tuesday, Pat Brannigan, executive director of the New Jersey Catholic Conference, which opposes gay marriage, said he was not surprised by news of the forthcoming report.
“If you look at the membership of that committee, they’re all advocates. It’s an advocacy group,” Brannigan said. “It doesn’t mean that that is the conclusion that society and people in general will come to.”
Steven Goldstein, the commission’s vice chairman and the chairman of Garden State Equality, New Jersey’s leading gay rights group, said that while there are some activists like him on the commission, it was a diverse group.

Six of the 13 members are members of the Corzine administration, which Goldstein points out went to court in 2006 to oppose gay marriage.

The other seven are members of the public, including one Goldstein described as a “pro-life Republican,” AnnLynne Benson of Clementon.
Benson, who confirmed that she is Republican and opposes abortion, said Tuesday that her views about gays have evolved over the last 15 years or so as she’s met more gay people.

She said the point of the commission was not to wrestle with whether the state Supreme Court decision was right but whether civil unions delivered on their intent.
Benson said the commission gathered plenty of public comment at a series of hearings before deciding to issue the report.
“There could have been more and more hearings,” she said. “Once you’ve heard the same thing over and over again, it doesn’t change.”
Of the 150 people who testified or wrote letters to the commission, only 10 opposed allowing gay couples to marry.

Some opposed gay marriage on religious grounds and some,  including Brannigan, argued that civil unions were working well.
But the commission found that the concept of civil unions was not widely understood. Even though the law said people in the unions could visit their partners in hospitals and make medical decisions on their behalf, for instance, that was not always enforced.
A man from Plainfield, his name is not included in the report, told the commission that he was taken out of a hospital by security guards when he tried to see his partner there.
The commission said that allowing gay couples full marriage would make those issues more widely understood and more easily enforced.
The report cited another study that found that allowing gay marriage in New Jersey would help the state in lean economic times, too: It estimated that gay weddings would add nearly $250 million to the state’s economy over three years.

TM & Copyright 2008 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO & EYE Logo TM & Copyright 2008 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. TheAssociated Press contributed to this report.



Written by kickingalion

December 10, 2008 at 4:19 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with ,

%d bloggers like this: