NY, NJ Marriage Advocates “Embarrassed”

Gay City News
April 7, 2009
In the wake of Iowa and Vermont legalizing civil marriage equality for same-sex couples just four days apart, leading LGBT advocates in New York and New Jersey expressed frustration that the Legislature in neither state has carried the ball across the goal line -- despite support for the issue from the Senate and Assembly leaders and the governors of both states. [Link]

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EDITORIAL: Vermont Equality

New York Times
April 8, 2009
"Coming less than a week after the crucial ruling by the Iowa Supreme Court that extended same-sex marriage to a state in the nation’s heartland, and with bills to follow suit under consideration in several other state capitals, the welcome move by the Vermont Legislature adds a vital sense of momentum and democratic duty to this civil rights struggle. Lawmakers in New York and New Jersey, in particular, have marriage bills pending and Democratic governors ready to sign them. There should be no further delay in enacting these measures." [Link]

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Gay couple’s dispute with Glen Ridge Country Club renews calls for same-sex marriage

The Star-Ledger
April 2, 2009
Stephen Hyland, a Westwood family law attorney who has many gay and lesbian couples as clients, said the Glen Ridge County Club incident could be attributed to the legal prohibition of the word "marriage" with regard to same-sex couples. "If this couple had been able to marry, then there would not have been any need to explain anything further," Hyland said. "On the other hand, if you have to leave it up to an individual, then these things are going to pop up." [Link]

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Gov. Corzine Announces Support for Marriage Equality

NBC New York
March 2009

At Garden State Equality's Legends Dinner, Governor Corzine spoke out in support of marriage equality saying more emphatically than ever before, "I support marriage equality" and he also stressed the need to do it in 2009. [Link]

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Poll: Majority of NJ voters support marriage equality

February 19, 2009
A Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Poll released Wednesday found that 48 percent of registered N.J. voters support full marriage equality for gay couples. [Link]

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TALKING TO NEIGHBORS: A New Jersey Couple Wants to Marry

Guest Blogger: Richard Ledesma

So here it is Freedom to Marry Week…neighbor.

We are Richard and Jeffrey, two men in a loving committed relationship since September 6, 2002. We have two dogs, a nice apartment in New Jersey, a car with monthly insurance payments. We have electric, gas, cable, and cell phone bills. We shop at our local supermarket and visit the same doctor for the past three years. We recycle, clean our sidewalk, and respect our environment. We maintain diverse full time jobs and pay our taxes. We have suffered the death of both of our mothers and one of our fathers in the past couple of years.

We are just like you and your spouse except for one thing. Richard and Jeffrey cannot marry. We are not entitled to bereavement leave from work if our partner dies. We are not entitled to draw the Social Security of the deceased partner, or to automatically inherit a shared home, assets, or personal items in the absence of a will. We are not covered by laws and policies that permit people to take medical leave to care for a sick spouse or for the kids. We are not considered next of kin for the purposes of hospital visitation and emergency medical decisions. We cannot file joint tax returns and are excluded from tax benefits and claims specific to marriage. In addition, we are denied the right to transfer property to one another and pool the family's resources without adverse tax consequences. Richard and Jeffrey are not entitled, covered, or considered on alot of things that you are…

What we do have are neighbors that only see Richard and Jeffrey, two men in a loving committed relationship.

Richard and Jeffrey are your neighbors but cannot marry. Why, I thought we were just like you.

***Richard Ledesma is the Office Manager at Freedom To Marry. Jeffrey Thomas-Ledesma is a Hyperbaric and Wound Care Technician at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center. They live in New Jersey and are originally from Miami, FL and Ft. Payne, AL respectively.

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Judge: Pair married in Canada can divorce in NJ

The Associated Press
February 6, 2009
Gay couples' marriages performed outside New Jersey are recognized in the state for the purpose of divorce, according to a ruling Friday by a judge deciding whether a lesbian couple married in Canada can split. [Link]

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TALKING TO FAMILY: Marriage and the Protection of Children

Guest Blogger: Dana Rudolph

Denying marriage to same-sex couples harms our children.

So said the New Jersey Civil Union Review Commission, which published its final report at the end of 2008. Although many of the arguments focused on the economic damage of civil unions and the difficulty of equal access to health care and other services, much of the report also discussed the harm that inequality causes to the children of same-sex couples.

Judith Glassgold, Psy.D., President of the New Jersey Psychological Association and a faculty member at Rutgers University, testified:

Children of same-sex relationships must cope with the stigma of being in a family without the social recognition that exists through marriage. Children of same-sex relationships are the secondary target of the stigma directed at their parents because of their parents’ sexual orientation.

Such stigma may be indirect such as the strain due to lack of social support and acceptance. Also, some children may be targeted due to teasing in school or from peers. . . . As a result of the lack of marriage equality, both lesbian, gay and bisexual adolescents and children of same-sex relationships face continued stigma. The stigma has negative mental health effects.

Separately, the American Psychological Association published new research in January that also found anti-marriage-equality amendments “have led to higher levels of stress and anxiety” among LGBT adults and their families. The research looked at families from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

A number of teens and adult children of same-sex parents also spoke to the New Jersey Commission and shared personal experiences that support the professionals’ claims.
Meredith Fenton, national program director of COLAGE and the daughter of a lesbian parent, summed up what many of the others were saying:

Many youth we work with have reported that one of the common ways that they have been teased by other kids is that kids have questioned the validity of their families because their parents aren’t able to get married.

Young people often equate the notion of a real family with the idea of a family that has married parents. . . . And denying families marriage equality merely gives more fodder to those bullies who can say, “Your family is not a real family, your parents can’t get married.

We also find youth in COLAGE who report that hearing that their family can’t have the same rights as other families leads them to feeling scared or confused when they hear that folks are against their families being married. They say that they think somebody is going to come and break up their family.

Youth have also shared that they’re confused about the idea of civil unions and why there needs to be this separate category for their family.

We need to shout this from the rooftops.

The right-wing defined the Prop 8 battle in large part as being about the best interests of the children. It’s time to take back control of the argument and show that the best interests of children everywhere rest with equality. (I have yet to see any demonstrated harm to children of opposite-sex parents who learn that same-sex couples and their marriages exist. They may experience some momentary confusion if they haven’t been brought up knowing this, but that doesn’t count as harm.)

LGBT parents are raising millions of children across the country. By extension, LGBT families are part of the lives of millions of non-LGBT friends and classmates. If we can broaden the discussion of marriage equality and put it in the context of the needs and well being of all children, we have a message with the potential to resonate far beyond the LGBT community and our close allies.

In building our case, we must find ways to ally with other non-traditional families, including straight single parents, divorced parents, grandparent-headed households, interracial families, and adoptive families, as well as fair-minded traditional families, who realize that the structure of a family is less important than the love and care it provides.

This does not mean avoiding specific images of LGBT families or refusing to use the words gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender, but it does mean making the argument about more than just LGBT rights. We need to talk about ways to make sure that no child is stigmatized and bullied because of his or her family structure, whether it is an LGBT family or some other type.

If we can accomplish this, we undercut the “think of the children” argument that the right-wing has used over and over to devastating effect. Marriage equality will seem less like an outside agenda being thrust upon unsuspecting young minds, and more like a way to give all children the environment they need to learn and grow.

Marriage equality is an important right for same-sex couples regardless of whether they have children, of course (and while the lack of it can lead to the negative effects discussed above, it is not strictly a prerequisite for successful parenting, as the numerous happy, healthy children of unmarried same-sex parents make clear). Still, many in this country make a strong connection between parenting and marriage, and it behooves us as a movement to acknowledge this and use it to our advantage, rather than letting it be used against us.

As we continue to battle for marriage equality and other LGBT rights, therefore, it is the needs of our children that will create some of the most compelling arguments. The New Jersey Civil Union Commission has made a good start at compiling this evidence.

They were only able to do so because LGBT parents and our children have continued to tell our stories, in classrooms and playgrounds as well as courthouses and statehouses. It is these stories of individual circumstances but universal themes - love and family - that will show people how a better world for the children of LGBT parents means a better world for all.

Dana Rudolph is the founder and publisher of Mombian, a blog and resource directory for LGBT parents. This article first appeared in slightly different form at 365gay.com, December 18, 2008.

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Push for Marriage Meets Election Concerns in NJ

The New York Times
January 1, 2009
Though political leaders in N.J. are increasingly supportive of marriage equality, the governor and all 80 members of the Assembly are up for re-election in November, which may delay a vote on the issue. [Link]

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EDITORIAL: Separate and Not Equal

New York Times
December 20, 2008
The New York Times supports marriage equality in N.J., writing about civil unions, "Creating a separate, new legal structure to confer some benefits on same-sex couples neither honors American ideals of fairness, nor does it grant true equality." [Link]

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