UPS Under Fire: Governor Defends Same-Sex Partners

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United Parcel Service received a letter from Gov. Jon S. Corzine urging the company to implement the New Jersey Civil Union Law and put forward benefits for employees in a same-sex partnership. Gay-rights groups have the shipping giant under fire by asserting that same-sex partners are not receiving the same treatment as their married coworkers as required by New Jersey law.

“Surely, as a company with a long-standing commitment to its employees and the community, UPS would not want to make its employees and their families face these difficult choices based on the subtleties of the interaction of federal and state law,” Corzine wrote.

The company defended itself in stating that the law does not change company policy, which is governed by federal law. Corzine said the company should consider providing benefits nevertheless. UPS asserted they offer spousal benefits to nonunion couples who are in same-sex civil unions. The company said it is not anti-gay, pointing out that it already provides benefits to same-sex couples in Massachusetts, where gay marriages are legal.

Civil rights advocates say this is the problem with the law not using the word marriage. Although the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled same-sex couples must have equal rights of marriage, nearly one in eight couples have been turned down for company benefits due to this flaw even though UPS said a civil union is not a marriage and under their union contract, benefits are available only to legally married couples who are in bargaining unions. UPS is only one of the latest in a rising number of companies denying spousal benefits to same-sex partners of workers. The contract expires in 2008, and they are currently in negotiations for the new contract.