Two years of civil unions and what do we have to show for it?
Thursday marks the second anniversary of civil unions in the Garden State. Frankly, we don’t have a lot to show for it.
As the New Jersey Civil Union Commission confirmed in December, most institutions don’t treat civil unions like marriages at all. “Unioned” couples often can’t share health insurance, visit each other in the hospital, or do a host of other things married couples take for granted.
(Welcome to any and all readers who found their way here from there!)
A fun new fact, which Garden State Equality announced tonight, has to do with public opinion. From an e-mail:
A new statewide poll, conducted by Monmouth University for Gannett, shows that registered voters across New Jersey favor marriage equality by a margin of 50 to 40 percent. The poll will be released on the two-year anniversary of the state’s civil union law, Thursday, February 19, 2009. The poll is independent: Neither Garden State Equality nor other advocacy organizations are affiliated with it.
While this is certainly a victory in the court of public opinion, there are still two major problems. First, there isn’t any legitimate reason for that 40 percent to be against us in a legal battle. We don’t begrudge them their right to say we’ll all burn in hell—no matter how much we may disagree—and they likewise should allow us our own personal freedoms.
But equally important is the fact that public opinion should not be the driving force behind this issue. Historically, the general population has been late to acknowledge a minority group’s right to exist, and it’s right to be treated like everyone else. People as a group are not legal experts, and base these kinds of decisions on emotions, not facts. That’s not good for anybody.
Bending law to public will is a bad idea. The gay community is far from the first group to face this type of problem, and it certainly won’t be the last. But that doesn’t make our struggle for equal rights any less important. It just places things in an enlightening historical context, one that might even help us see where to go next.