Census: Number of Same-Sex Couples in N.J. Increased 45 Percent Over Last Decade
Census statistics indicate the number of same-sex couples in New Jersey has increased 45 percent over the last decade, but the state’s largest LGBT rights organization is calling them an undercount because they do not include those who are single.
Garden State Equality, which filed a lawsuit along with Lambda Legal in state Superior Court in June challenging New Jersey’s civil unions law, released their own statistics to supporters. GSE said there are slightly more than 83,000 LGBT people in New Jersey, compared with the 24,112 same-sex couples that the 2010 census documented. Maplewood, South Orange, Montclair and Jersey City all have high concentrations of LGBT people.
"What the census is really saying is that we same-sex couples can be as fabulously boring as everybody else," Goldstein told the Associated Press. "We complain about the parking in Garden State Plaza, we bitch about taxes and worry about getting a quality education for our kids."
Will these numbers factor into the marriage equality debate in the state?
"The numbers should make an impact on the debate [for marriage equality], but [Garden State Equality] needs to find a way to identify all the people who support the cause ... they need to figure out how to get to the right people because those people are out there," said Collingswood resident Anthony Fitzpatrick. "[One percent] is absurd in New Jersey - it’s much higher. They don’t have the right outreach, they don’t have the right mailing lists, they don’t have the right contacts. I hear more from Equality California than I do from Garden State and I live here. I have no idea how to join. I’m a very politically involved individual and I don’t really know that organization."
Those fighting for marriage equality believe civil unions must hold the same weight as marriage; but the fray begins on whether or not the time is right for a push for nuptials for same-sex couples, whether or not the name should change, and how it affects others in the state.
Pertaining to GSE and Lambda’s marriage equality lawsuit, Matt Smith, another Collingswood resident, said the nomenclature doesn’t bother him. The meaning behind it, however, does.
"My thing is, it’s a financial. My partner’s ex-wife had more rights than I did if we have a civil union. I also paid $3,000 in lawyer fees for paper work ... so that’s where my problem is," said Smith. "We pay more money, more taxes; we’re not getting tax benefits. [Civil unions] are not giving us the same equality. You can call it whatever you want, you can call it shit in a basket, but give me the same rights."
Fitzpatrick sought a universal approach.
"If they call it civil unions for us, then they have to call it civil unions for everybody," he said. "Right now they call it marriage, so it needs to be called marriage."
Audubon resident Jeff Denson also weighed in.
"What it boils down to is money. They’re stealing our money. The effect on the financial system will be huge," he said. "As taxpaying citizens we obviously want the same benefits and inclusion as everyone else. What I’d say on the opposite side of that coin is that for our own benefit, not that the lack of civil rights has been okay - it’s not okay, it’s wrong - but for our own benefit as a group, we don’t want to jam it down people’s throats. We don’t want to do that today, because if it happens today there is going to be a backlash. We have to slowly get people use to it because otherwise you’re just going to anger people. Things are going really well and there is a steady progress. It sucks that we have to wait to get basic civil rights, but if you try to shove it down people’s throats with lawyers there’s going to be a negative reaction and we’re going to suffer."
Denson made further comparisons to previous civil rights movements.
"How long did African Americans fight for civil rights in America? How long did women fight for civil rights in America?" he asked. "We only stated fighting at Stonewall. Now here we are and a lot has happened, and I think we should be happy. I think we need a nice steady slow push for progression until it leads to equality. There’s something to be said for giving people time for change. I think that needs to happen for the population in general. I think what’s happening is perfect, keep that pressure and it will come."
Though lawyers filed their lawsuit less than a week after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed his state’s marriage equality law, some observers say the battle for nuptials for same-sex couples in New Jersey will not follow the same route because of a lack of governmental support.
"The path is going to have to be a little bit different because you’re not going to have the same support from a central government like a governor like Andrew Cuomo," said Fitzpatrick, citing Gov. Chris Christie’s opposition to marriage equality. "In New Jersey it’s going to have to go through the courts or get the legislature to override a governor’s veto. We don’t have that right now, and that’s the problem."