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Next Step: civil union states

Timothy Kincaid

June 26th, 2013

The overturn of DOMA3 provides a number of benefits for citizens of the marriage equality states. But it simultaneously creates a situation of discrimination for those who live in civil union states.

Before today same-sex couples in New Jersey, for example, had all of the same rights as married couples in New York. That is to say, both were afforded all of the marriage rights and obligations that a state confers but none of the federal rights or obligations. Now, however, New York same-sex couples can avail themselves of a whole host of federal benefits while New Jersey couples remain subjected to a lesser status – not only in name, but in practice.

Currently the states with civil unions (or domestic partnerships) are Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Nevada, and Oregon (Wisconsin offers limited rights). Of these, Colorado, Nevada, and Oregon are banned by state constitution from offering equal marriage status to same-sex couples. Which leaves our next battlegrounds to be Hawaii, Illinois, and New Jersey.

In Hawaii, the legislature has been either voting down (or letting die) marriage equality bills, including one submitted in January of this year. However, this changes the picture and it is likely that marriage will finally come to the state which brought the issue to the nation’s attention.

Illinois’ speaker of the House let die a marriage bill just last month. Equality is likely when the House reconvenes in November.

But New Jersey will be the interesting battle. Governor Christie vetoed a marriage bill in February 2012. But he has also supported civil unions and asserted that “discrimination should not be tolerated”. Although marriage and civil unions simply are not equal, his position was not necessarily contradictory before today.

Now, however, a state can decide if federal benefits should be afforded to their gay citizens. Should the legislature send Christie another marriage bill – and I anticipate that they will – he will have to decide whether he opposes unequal treatment or whether he supports tradition and the teachings of his church. And as Christie has presidential aspirations, this might be the first indicator as to whether the Republican Party can acclimate to the new reality.

Comments

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Lindoro Almaviva
June 26th, 2013 | LINK

Now, however, a state can decide if federal benefits should be afforded to their gay citizens.

And that is where I believe we need to go after. I believe this specific situation is nothing more than a restating of the Jim Crow mentality, only this time for LGBTI peoiple instead of blacks.

By allowing the states’ government the option of discrimination, they are allowing them tpo create a situation that pretty much reads: Don’t like it here? You can move to NY or CA; which is exactly the kind of mentality that permeated in the south during segregation. That can not and should not fly.

A state government should not have the right to decide who receives federal aid, specially when that aid (or rights, or responsibilities, or privileges) would be available to said people by just moving.

Richard Rush
June 26th, 2013 | LINK

Starting today, no one can possibly get away with claiming that civil unions and marriage are separate but equal.

Hyhybt
June 26th, 2013 | LINK

That shouldn’t be the *only* next step, of course. States that have constitutional bans need those overturned, and some of them, at least, are doable; no reason that can’t be begun in parallel with converting the civil union states all the way to marriage.

John
June 26th, 2013 | LINK

“Should the legislature send Christie another marriage bill – and I anticipate that they will – he will have to decide whether he opposes unequal treatment or whether he supports tradition and the teachings of his church.”

At the moment NJ doesn’t need to send another bill to Christie. They still have until Jan of 2014 to override his original veto. Hopefully this will encourage more representatives to sign on to the override.

Stefan
June 26th, 2013 | LINK

The Illinois legislature is meeting next month in a special session to pass pension reform. They could possibly take up the bill then too.

If Christie is smart he will work behind the scenes to ensure there are enough votes to override his veto.

Ben M
June 27th, 2013 | LINK

It will be interesting to see what happens next

Same-sex marriage is now in a very similar place as first cousin marriage. Only 21 states allow first cousin marriage (many of them are also the same that allow civil unions or same sex marriage). The rest of the states ban first cousin marriage and some states criminalize it. A handful also void out of state first cousin marriages and have civil or criminal penalties.

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