Last night at a packed "Town Hall" meeting in South Orange, Garden State Equality detailed the findings of New Jersey Commission on Civil Unions. It began with an excerpt of the 2007 Academy Awards when the documentary 'Freeheld' won an Oscar to sympathetic and cheers supporters.
It continued with several brief clips from the film showing police Lt. Laurel Hester, who ultimately sucoumed to cancer, crediting the organization with the victory to pension benefits to her partner. The group has to its credit been responsible for the enactment of over 200 laws throughout the state. It then introduced a couple who had seen the failure of civil unions first hand.
One of the two was rushed to the hospital for a life threatening condition. When the other arrived at the hospital to check on her partner's condition, she had to educate the doctor on the nature of the civil union law and about her right to receive information. (The arrogance and ignorance of some in the medical professional is truly astounding at times.)
There were then a few words from J. Frank Vespa-Papaleo, chairman of the Civil Union Review Commission, who serves as the state's Director of the NJ Division of Civil Rights.
Finally the nephew of Harvey Milk - Stuart Milk offered some encouraging words and some personal stories about his infamous uncle.
All in all it was a great gathering.
It really isn't a surprise that the civil union law is not meeting expectations. In the absence of action on a federal level, the benefits that the law promises just are not pratically significant. However in terms of equality -- the moral case cannot be overlooked. Members of same sex relationships deserve the same recognition as their heterosexual counterparts pure and simple.
The full report is available at the following address: