July 31, 2007

Activism Pays Off in New Jersey

From The New York Blade:

After persuasion from New Jersey's governor and attorney general, United Parcel Service of America announced Monday that it would extend health insurance benefits to the civil union partners of gay employees.

The policy change has to do with New Jersey's civil unions law, which took effect in February, and seeks to give gay couples the same rights in the state as married couples.
Gov. Jon S. Corzine sent Atlanta-based UPS a letter on July 20 asking the shipping giant to change its stance.

The company had previously said that civil union partners were legally different from spouses, and therefore, the partners were not entitled to the same benefits that spouses of the company's hourly workers receive.

Gay rights advocates say UPS's legal interpretation was faulty.

They say that many other employers, though, have taken the same stance. The advocates maintain that gay couples would get equal treatment only if they are allowed to marry.
UPS spokesman Norman Black said the company is reviewing its policies in Connecticut and Vermont, which also offer civil unions.

Management and administrative staff in the company nationwide already receive domestic partnership benefits.

Before Monday, the company had said it would extend them to all its hourly union workers, but couldn't outside its collective bargaining agreement. So, only hourly employees in Massachusetts, where gay marriage is legal, received the benefits for their partners.

You can bet that this change of course by UPS was also influenced by the advocacy efforts of groups like Garden State Equality and Lambda Legal among others. Kudos to them and Governor Corzine for their continued efforts to see that the laws of New Jersey are properly enforced.

Lambda Legal has more on their website about this decision and the civil union laws in New Jersey. Click here to read that information.

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