The clock is ticking. New Jersey has until January 2014 to override Gov. Chris Christie’s veto of marriage equality. It’s too important an opportunity to let it slip away again – and that’s why we’re counting on New Jersey to grab it now, while we still can.
Gay and lesbian New Jerseyans serve in the military, keep our communities safe as firefighters and police officers, staff our hospitals, rebuild our infrastructure, pay taxes and raise families. Yet, New Jersey has denied them the freedom to marry and instead has set up a separate system of civil unions that treats them as second-class couples. It’s time for legislators to do what is right and end this discrimination.
This year, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide the ACLU case of Edie Windsor, and with it, the fate of the discriminatory federal Defense of Marriage Act – known as DOMA. When Thea Spyer, Edie’s wife and love of more than 40 years, died, the IRS didn’t recognize their marriage. Instead, it treated them as strangers and taxed Edie more than $300,000 on her wife’s estate. This wouldn’t have happened if she was a straight widow. In fact, if she was not a lesbian, the IRS would not have taxed her on the estate at all.
If the Supreme Court rules in Windsor’s favor and DOMA is struck down, the federal government will treat all married couples fairly, whether they are gay or straight. Yet in New Jersey, a two-tiered system will persist, and even get worse. For gay and lesbian couples in a New Jersey civil union, there will be an even wider gulf between the rights provided by marriage and the state-sanctioned discrimination they endure by not being able to marry. While married same-sex couples would be able to file taxes jointly, consolidate federal student loans and take time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act, couples in civil unions would not. Couples in civil union states like New Jersey would be separated from some of their closest neighbors in New York, Connecticut and Maryland by more than geography.
It’s more important than ever for New Jersey legislators to do what is right by overriding the governor’s veto and ending discrimination for loving lesbian and gay couples. The tide is turning on marriage equality in the country, with a growing number of Americans in support of legalizing marriage for gay and lesbian couples. It’s time for New Jersey to get on board. We need to pull every New Jersey legislator who was on the fence in 2012 onto the right side of history in 2013.
The ACLU-NJ, Garden State Equality, and our committed allies will keep you informed about rallies, town hall forums, lobby days, email-writing campaigns, social media actions, petition drives – anything we can possibly do to bring our state closer to marriage. New Jersey can only win this with your help.