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Gay Couples Seek Marriage Rights In New Jersey Lawsuit

StoryDecember 22, 2003
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A notice of appeal is being filed today before an appellate court in New Jersey that seeks the same rights and responsibilities for gay couples that go along with government-sanctioned heterosexual marriage. We speak with a gay couple who are among seven plaintiffs in the suit. [includes transcript]

  • Sandra Heath and Alicia Toby, among seven plaintiffs in a New Jersey lawsuit seeking the same rights for gay couples that go along with government-sanctioned marriage.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Many people, George Bush, included, are talking about a constitutional amendment to ban marriage between two men or two women. Well, today in New Jersey, a notice of appeal about be filed before the state’s appellate court between the — before the state’s appellate court in a says that seems likely to be headed to the New Jersey Supreme Court, that asks for rights and responsibilities that go along with government sanctioned matrimony money. We are joined right now by two of the people who are among the seven plaintiffs in the New Jersey lawsuit seeking same rights for gay couples as heterosexual couples. Can you explain what the significant of today is. What exactly are you doing in this lawsuit?

ALICIA TOBY: Well, we are proceeding to the next stage. We expected to lose if the first part of the lawsuit on the lower level. So, now we — you know, we are excited, and anxious as well as we move on to the next stage. You know, it’s moving right along, so we’re just — we’re just anticipating what the final decision is going to be.

AMY GOODMAN:The New Jersey legislature is expected to approve two bills that would provide some domestic partner benefits to same-sex couples. Where does Governor James McGreevey stand?

ALICIA TOBY: Right now, I don’t really know where he stands. I think that he probably would lean more toward domestic partnership, if anything, as opposed to legally sanctioning same-sex marriage, but I’m not really sure where he stands in this position.

SANDRA HEATH:Where we stand on it is that it’s exciting. But needless to say, it’s very limited in the benefits that it tends same-sex marriages. We certainly are in support of it. It’s a step toward the right track and it’s not only limited to same-sex marriage, or, to lesbian and gay folk, it’s inclusive of any folk to couples who want to be together and benefit from some medical benefits and stuff. It so, it’s very exciting, but it’s limit, and so we are glad about it, but certainly forging ahead on the legalization of same-sex marriage.

AMY GOODMAN: If the legislature approves bills that recognize some tax property, insurance benefits for same-sex couples, at this point, you have none?

SANDRA HEATH: No, we have none.


AMY GOODMAN: You have two grown boys, and grandchildren?

ALICIA TOBY: Yes, we have four grandchildren. You hear one of them in the background. He’s with us this morning. But we have four grandchildren. Four grandbabies, actually. they are all babies. Two grown sons. But, you know, we don’t enjoy any of the legal protections that a heterosexual couple who is married as we are enjoy. So, for us, legalizing, recognizing same-sex marriage is a primary concern for us.

AMY GOODMAN: How long have you been together?

ALICIA TOBY: We have been together 15 years in January.

AMY GOODMAN: If one of you had to go to the hospital, how would the other partner be considered?

ALICIA TOBY: Well, we would just be considered a — well, what happens is my wife has been to the hospital twice with having major surgery, and I identified myself as being her wife, her spouse. Of course, it’s not legally recognized, but fortunately, for us, the hospital did not give me a hard time about visitation and her first surgery, her doctor came to the waiting room to get me, and take me to her in recovery. So, we have been very blessed as being — given respect. No one has tried to mistreat us or wish — when she was in the hospital both time, make me feel insignificant, but still the day could happen where that might be an issue. Where if I said she was my wife or we have been together about so many years. They may look at me and say — and? But, that hasn’t happened to us, but the possibility of it happening is real for us.

AMY GOODMAN: What is your response to this election year where about a constitutional amendment that would put into the constitution, make it illegal for same-sex couples to marry could be considered and gain strength even as the other — the movement going in the other direction gains strength as we have seen in Massachusetts and New Jersey?

SANDRA HEATH: It’s appalling. It’s appalling because there are a number of issues. One, it’s a civil right, and human rights issue. And we as taxpayers and viable citizens deserve the right to be able to marry those that we love. So, it’s absurd to think that George Bush and the powers that be could actually ban same-sex marriage.

AMY GOODMAN: Sandra Heath and Alicia Toby, thank you for being with us, among the seven couple plaintiffs in the lawsuit seeking rights for gay couples that go along with government-sanctioned marriage.

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