updated 7/30/2007 4:12:26 PM ET 2007-07-30T20:12:26

After persuasion from New Jersey’s governor and attorney general, UPS Inc. said Monday that it would extend health insurance benefits to the civil union partners of gay employees in New Jersey covered by a union contract.

The policy change has to do with New Jersey’s civil unions law, which took effect in February, and seeks to give gay couples the same rights in the state as married couples.

Gov. Jon S. Corzine sent Atlanta-based UPS a letter on July 20 asking the shipping company, also known as United Parcel Service, to change its stance.

The company had previously said that civil union partners were legally different from spouses, and therefore, the partners were not entitled to the same benefits that spouses of the company’s hourly workers receive.

Gay rights advocates say UPS had a faulty legal interpretation.

They say that many other employers, though, have taken the same stance. The advocates maintain that gay couples would get equal treatment only if they are allowed to marry.

UPS spokesman Norman Black said the company is reviewing its policies in Connecticut and Vermont, which also offer civil unions.

Management and administrative staff in the company nationwide already receive domestic partnership benefits.

Before Monday, the company had said it wanted to extend them to all its hourly union workers, but couldn’t outside its collective bargaining agreements. The only exception was in Massachusetts, where gay marriage is legal.

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