Denial of Benefits Shows Limits of Civil Unions in New Jersey

Same-sex couples united in civil unions not receiving spousal benefits in New Jersey

Same-sex couples who entered into civil unions in New Jersey have already experienced the limitations of new legislation that does not specifically use the word, “marriage,” to describe their relationships.

Last month, United Parcel Service  denied health care coverage to same-sex civil union partners of its unionized employees in the Garden State because they could not be described as “spouses.” The company said that under its union contracts, benefits are available only to legally married couples who are in the bargaining units. Following advocacy from Lambda Legal and Garden State Equality and a letter to UPS from Governor Jon Corzine, on July 30 the company announced the reversal of its position. Coverage for non-union employees in same-sex civil unions was never in question.

Some state legislators who championed the civil union law, approved in December, expressed surprise that civil union partners would be treated unfairly. They said they intended for everyone to be treated equally, despite the different legal language used to describe relationships between same-sex partners. Activists maintained the latest problem was the inevitable outcome of legislation that compromised full marriage equality.