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Assemblyman Tim Eustace (D-Bergen), one of the Assembly’s newest members and only the second openly gay member, testified on Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, urging the legislature to pass true marriage equality to protect families like his own who have suffered at the hands of a “separate but equal” system.

“Having served as the Mayor of Maywood for four years, I performed countless weddings, about one-third of which were civil unions. Under the separate, but equal system we have, I continuously had to explain the distinctions between marriage and civil unions.

“I witnessed these distinctions first-hand last week when my partner of 31 years went into the hospital for open heart surgery. Do you know what it’s like to have to explain the nature of our relationship to the operating room surgeon or the attending nurse? It’s unfortunate that under the current civil union system, same sex couples are forced to have to explain and justify their relationships each and every day, and more unfortunate when it’s during a time of duress.

“My partner and I have been together over three decades and have raised two sons. By every traditional definition we are a family, except when it comes to our recognition under state law. I hope the state will put an end to this discrimination once and for all and make New Jersey a true leader in equality,” said Eustace.