Last month, the New Jersey Civil Union Review Commission issued its final report, which, according to the Commission, included "overwhelming evidence" that civil unions do not provide the same protections as marriage, and has even gone so far as to create economic, medical and emotional hardships for same sex couples.

The article in the Star Ledger noted that approximately 3,353 couples have entered into civil unions in New Jersey and about 1,500 complains about them have been made to Garden State Equality, which fights for same sex rights and protections. 

The report detailed how, in many cases, employers and hospitals simply do not recognize same sex rights and benefits and, in some instances, had not even heard of civil unions despite the passing of the landmark Civil Union Act less than two years ago.  Plus, employers who are self-insured under ERISA, they are not obligated to abide by the Civil Union Act when it comes to providing health benefits to same sex couples. 

Since issuance of the report, Governor Corzine stated that he would sign a same sex marriage bill should it come before him.  Whether this happens sooner rather than later is unclear and it might sooner be an issue for voters to decide upon.  Currently, same sex marriages are only legal in Massachusetts and Connecticut and the topic has been of hot discussion in California since voters rejected Proposition 8 last November.  Blog entries on those topics can be found here and here and here.

EDITOR’S NOTE:  This is a hot bottom issue.  While the Governor has said he would sign such a bill, there is no evidence that he will ever be presented with such a bill.  Moreover, even if such a bill is passed, there still will not be total equality because the federal government does not recognize same sex marriage.  As such, as ERISA is federal law, the protections it affords to spouses probably would not apply.  Similarly, the IRS probably would still not allow same sex couples to file joint tax returns.                                   ERIC S. SOLOTOFF

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