Lambda Legal Applauds UPS Decision to Give Benefits to Civil Union Partners
'Rather than going employer to employer and explaining civil unions one by one, the legislature has a quick fix: allowing same-sex couples to marry.'
(New York, July 30, 2007) --- Following advocacy on behalf of Lambda Legal clients and a letter by Governor Corzine, United Parcel Service has decided to provide benefits to the same-sex civil union partners of its employees in New Jersey.
"We are pleased to see that UPS has decided to do the right thing in the end and provide benefits to the same-sex civil union partners and families of its employees in New Jersey," said David S. Buckel, Marriage Project Director of Lambda Legal and the attorney who represented the UPS employees. "In a statement, UPS's Senior Vice President of Human Resources said 'Based on initial legal review when this law was enacted, it did not appear that a "civil union" and "marriage" were equivalent.' UPS is joined by hundreds of employers around the state in hearing that civil unions are different from marriage and that is to be expected when people are given second-class status. The consequences to such ongoing mistakes are severe, and rather than going employer to employer and explaining civil unions one by one, the legislature has a quick fix: allowing same-sex couples to marry."
In May of this year, Gabriael "Nickie" Brazier, who is a driver for UPS who requested to have her civil union spouse, Heather Aurand, added to UPS's benefit plan so that the couple would not have to continue paying for a second, inferior, health insurance plan for Heather and could stop paying down a second yearly deductible. UPS responded with a letter outlining why it was denying spousal benefits to Brazier and Aurand, saying, "In summary, you cannot add Ms. Aurand as a spouse because New Jersey law does not treat civil unions the same as marriages,[emphasis added] and the Plan requires a dependent spouse to be a spouse as defined under applicable state law." Aurand is a stay-at-home parent who is raising the couple's three children. The couple has been together for over seven years.
Tom Walton, 42 is also a UPS driver who asked to have his civil union spouse and partner of 15 years with, Mearmon Davis, 44, added to his healthcare plan and was denied as well, but following advocacy by Lambda Legal and a letter from Governor John Corzine, was advised he could now add Davis to his benefit plan.
In its October 2006 decision in Lambda Legal's marriage equality lawsuit, Lewis v. Harris, the New Jersey Supreme Court unanimously found that same-sex couples in New Jersey must have equal protection under the law and be granted the rights and responsibilities of marriage, but gave the legislature the opportunity to correct the violation. If the legislature chose civil unions over marriage equality, the Court left open the question of whether or not that choice would be constitutional, reasoning that the legislature should have the chance to explain its decision. A marriage equality bill was introduced on November 20th, and never reached a committee hearing, but a civil union bill was subsequently passed December 2006 and became effective in February 2007.
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Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.