Monday, July 2, 2007

Trouble with Civil Unions

The Washington Post reported on Saturday that some couples in New Jersey who have registered for civil unions since they became available four months ago are still being denied the rights and benefits the law was intended to grant them.

The article tells of Craig Ross and Richard Cash. Despite their civil union, Ross's employer of 21 years is refusing to provide health insurance coverage for Cash. The company has a self-funded insurance plan, and claims - as have other employers - that federal regulations therefore allow them to ignore state laws regarding employee benefits.

The federal Defense of Marriage Act is often cited by companies like Ross's as justification for denying benefits to the partners of employees even when they are legally recognized by the state.

Ross and Cash are not alone. According to the Post, "A recent study by Garden State Equality, New Jersey's leading gay advocacy group, indicated that as many as one in eight of the 1,092 same-sex couples who have registered for civil unions there have been denied all or part of the benefits they hoped to gain from the law."

This is an excellent example of why civil unions are not an adequate substitute for equal marriage, as they are clearly considered to be less than marriage by some employers (not to mention the federal government).

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