Five Republican senators today said that it’s unlikely that a bill redefining marriage can pass the Senate and asked their Democratic colleagues to join them in a bipartisan effort to strengthen New Jersey’s civil union law. The five said that while they can’t support the Freedom of Religion and Equality in Civil Marriage Act (S-1967), they will work to ensure that New Jersey civil union law is enforced and provides all rights and benefits that legislators intended.
“Moving testimony in Senate hearings suggests that New Jersey’s civil union law is not always understood or followed,” Senator Tom Kean said. “We need to educate the public about the law, and enhance it if necessary so that no civil union partner is turned away from the hospital bed of a loved one.”
“A civil union is a legal contract, and the terms must be respected,” Senator Andrew Ciesla said. “No one can ignore the law.”
“It should be just as easy for civil union couples to split assets or to go through probate as it is for married couples,” said Senator Christopher “Kip” Bateman, who urged reform of the civil union laws while hearing testimony on the issue before the Senate Judiciary Committee. “I would support any reasonable legislation that ensures this happens in every case.”
“If medical coverage is offered to spouses and other dependents, then it also should be offered to civil union partners,” Senator Sean Kean said. “We will do everything possible to ensure that no partner in a civil union is denied medical care.”
“We must ensure that there are strong penalties for those who break the civil union law,” Senator Jennifer Beck said. “We must also ensure that civil union partners get the retirement and pension benefits that the law requires.”
All five senators said they welcome suggestions from constituents and Democratic colleagues on how to strengthen the civil union legislation. They pledged to work on a bipartisan basis to close any loopholes.