N.J commission criticized as ‘advocacy group’ for same-sex marriage

Governor Jon S. Corzine
Governor Jon S. Corzine


The New Jersey Civil Union Review Commission has concluded that New Jersey state legislators should allow same-sex “marriage,” citing several complaints charging that civil unions have not been properly implemented. However, an official with the New Jersey Catholic Conference charges that the commission is biased and headed by advocates who intended to lobby for same-sex marriage.

If the commission’s recommendations are followed, New Jersey would be the first state to institute homosexual marriage through passing a law rather than through obeying a court decision.

The commission argued that the state’s two-year-old civil union law does not do enough to give homosexual couples the same protections as heterosexual married couples. The law “invites and encourages unequal treatment of same-sex couples and their children,” the commission said, according to the AP.

It cited incidents where people in civil unions allegedly were prevented from visiting their partners in hospitals and making medical decisions on their behalf.

New Jersey Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts Jr., a Democrat, said the report should “spark a renewed sense of purpose and urgency to overcoming one of society's last remaining barriers to full equality for all residents.”

A spokesman for Gov. Jon S. Corzine said the governor would not comment on the report until it was presented. However, the governor in the past has said he would sign a bill allowing gay marriage.

Reportedly, of the 150 people who testified or wrote letters to the commission, only 10 opposed same-sex marriage.

The commission report also claimed that same-sex weddings would bring nearly $250 million to the state’s economy over three years.

Critics of the report charged the committee was biased.

Speaking with CNA on Wednesday, Brannigan reported that the commission’s chairman Frank Vespa-Papaleo is a “very noted gay person” and a “gay advocate.”

Steven Goldstein, the commission’s vice-chairman, is also chairman of the homosexual rights group Garden State Equality.

“We’re not surprised at the recommendation,” Brannigan told CNA. “This was not a commission set up to conduct a thorough study on whether or not the Civil Unions Act was implemented.

It was a group set to use everything and anything they could to lobby for same-sex marriage.”

“It is a conflict of interest for two advocates to be the leaders of a commission that is supposed to determine whether or not the act is working,” he argued.

“We look on it as a marketing report, done by good and decent people who are well-intentioned, but just because they’re well-intentioned, that doesn’t mean we should change long-standing social institutions.”

Brannigan noted that when he testified, the commission had received only eight complaints about the implementation of the civil union act.

“Of those eight, two were either from the same person or from two people with the same name.

And two were complaints about the same incident,” a Methodist camp which refused access to a lesbian couple.

Brannigan also told CNA that he had spent seven years as Deputy Director of the Division of Citizen Complaints in the Department of the Public Advocate. That department would receive “tens of thousands of complaints” each year and would consider it a very good sign “if we only ever got eight complaints about an agency.”

Reporting that Goldstein, the Civil Union Review Commission vice-chairman, claims to have received 1,500 complaints, Brannigan said that if that is true “he hasn’t made those complaints public.”

Brannigan added that in his experience many complaints tend to be irrelevant, misdirected, or not even complaints at all.

“Our experience showed that of the 20-30,000 complaints I received in a given year, the vast majority of them were from people who were confused or needed information, and so it wasn’t really a complaint about an agency.

“They wouldn’t all be complaints but different inquiries.”

Describing some of the complaints the commission received, Brannigan noted that some complained about matters of federal law.

“If New Jersey implemented same-sex marriage it would not affect those individuals.”

He noted that a civil union under New Jersey law “gives people every single benefit that heterosexuals obtain when they enter marriage.”

Brannigan then described Catholic teaching on marriage.

“Marriage can only be between a man and a woman. Biology supports us, because the bodies of man and woman are complementary.

For unions not for complementary sexes, “it’s a different institution, and it’s called the civil union. But it’s not marriage. It’s almost like calling an ocean a mountain. A tree cannot be a stone.”

“Marriage must be something between a man and a woman.

“That doesn’t mean that everyone isn’t made in the image and likeness of God, and so we have to treat people of the gay persuasion with all the courtesy and love we do to anybody. It’s not a matter of discrimination. It’s not bigotry, it’s biology.”

“We are not anti-gay, we are pro-marriage,” he continued, noting that the New Jersey Catholic Conference supported an implementation of the civil union act after it became law in New Jersey, which Brannigan characterized as an anti-discrimination law.

“I suggested to the commission that they should spend more of their energies on enforcing the civil unions act if there are more problems with it. There is no area of civil governance where the first step in a program, if there are problems, is to abolish the program.

“With only eight complaints, that is certainly not an issue.”