(Source: Lamba Legal)
On October 10, 2010, Daniel Weiss got a phone call no one wants to get. His civil union partner, John Grant, with whom he lived in Asbury Park, New Jersey, had been hit by a car in New York City. John was at Bellevue Hospital and was hemorrhaging in his brain.
When Daniel arrived, doctors weren’t sure whether John would live or die. Daniel had a health care proxy for John. But it was the middle of the night; he had rushed to the hospital, and he didn’t have documents with him. When Daniel began to ask about John’s care, a nurse asked him who he and John were to each other and indicated that he needed to leave the room. A neurosurgeon on the scene, trying to defuse the tension, asked whether John and Daniel were married. Daniel explained: “I said that we had a civil union in New Jersey,” Daniel says. “And the neurosurgeon asked me, ‘What is that?’”
It doesn’t take a special commission, as the New Jersey legislature created in 2007, to show how civil unions, while providing valuable protections to couples, ultimately fall short. Fortunately, John survived this horrendous accident. But the traumatic memory of how their relationship was incomprehensible to the hospital lingers. It was one of the reasons Daniel and John joined Lambda Legal’s new lawsuit for marriage equality in New Jersey.
The lawsuit might not have been necessary. Five years ago, in response to Lewis v. Harris, a marriage-equality suit Lambda Legal filed in 2002, the New Jersey Supreme Court agreed unanimously that denying equal rights to same-sex couples was unconstitutional. The justices ordered New Jersey’s legislature to take action. The legislature did—by passing a civil union bill.
As the video interviews with our plaintiffs like Daniel and John make plain, civil unions do not provide equality. Lambda Legal has been in the trenches, fighting for New Jersey couples, for nearly a decade. We aren’t giving up until equality, which the state’s highest court has already demanded, becomes a lived reality for couples across the state, and until communities, workplaces, schools and health care settings give New Jersey’s same-sex couples and their families the respect and recognition they deserve.
(Source: Lamba Legal)