[JURIST] A New Jersey civil union law has not been able to effectively ensure that same-sex couples receive the same rights and privileges as heterosexual couples because of federal law, according to an official report [PDF text] issued Tuesday by the New Jersey Civil Union Review Commission (NJ-CURC) [official website]. The New Jersey Civil Union Act [text] requires that employers offer the same benefits to both heterosexual and homosexual couples, but under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act [text], self-insured companies do not have to offer benefits to same-sex partners. The report found that about half of New Jersey companies do not have to offer benefits to civil union partners because of federal law. The state legislature is expected to consider a bill legalizing gay marriage within the next two years.
New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine signed the state's civil union legislation [JURIST report] into law in December 2006. The civil unions bill was passed in compliance with an October 2006 New Jersey Supreme Court ruling [JURIST report] that same-sex couples in the state must be afforded the same rights as heterosexual couples. Currently, Massachusetts is the only state that has legalized same-sex marriages [JURIST report], but New Jersey, Connecticut, Vermont and New Hampshire permit civil unions [JURIST news archive]. In addition, California, Maine and Washington allow domestic partnerships. Reuters has more. The Newark Star-Ledger has local coverage.