With New Jersey on the verge of passing a civil unions law for same-sex couples, Rick Connolly called his insurance company to see if he could add his partner of 23 years to his homeowner’s policy.
His partner could be added, Connolly was told, but not the same way as a spouse. The difference: If Connolly died, his partner would not be able to keep the policy.
The response is example of the confusion and frustration that might be in store for any gay couples who expect civil unions in New Jersey will give them the same rights as married couples.
“This is the first time in my life I’ve felt like going to a politician and saying, ‘What’s going on here?”‘ said Connolly, 63, of East Hanover, a former Army officer who is now retired from a career in the telephone industry.
… Stephen Hyland, a Princeton lawyer who published a legal guide to New Jersey’s domestic partnership, said federal taxes would be complicated for gay couples in New Jersey.
They won’t be able to file their federal returns jointly. But to file jointly on their state tax forms, they will still need to fill out the joint federal forms and send them to New Jersey, Hyland said.
Also, the civil unions bill requires companies that offer health insurance to spouses of their employees also offer it to civil union partners of workers. But for the civil union partner, unlike a spouse, those benefits would have to be reported as income to the IRS and would be subject to taxes, Hyland said.
Surviving partners won’t be able to collect deceased partners’ Social Security benefits and may not be able to collect their pensions, which fall under federal regulation, said Felice T. Londa, an Elizabeth-based family lawyer who represents many same-sex couples.
There’s another major tax issue regarding breakups of the relationships. Under federal law, alimony is not taxed.
But support paid from one partner to another when civil unions are dissolved would likely be subject to federal gift taxes, said Daniel Serviss, a Woodbridge-based matrimonial lawyer. Additionally, the couples in civil unions won’t necessarily have those unions recognized when they travel in states outside of New Jersey.
The article goes on, but the above is just a sampling of why civil unions create more questions than they resolve. Given what I said in the previous post, it’s also interesting to note that the article says gay couples in New Jersey are planning vacations that will take them only to states that have similar laws.
So, call it what you will, but don’t call it equality. Don’t even call it “separate but equal.” It’s more like “separate, but unequal.” In other words, very little has changed.