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October 10, 2008

Connecticut Goes Gay

The Supreme Court of Connecticut issued a ruling today stating that gay couples in the state have the right to marry. The 4-3 decision determined that having civil unions instead of marriage for gay people is a violation of the state constitution.
The Supreme Court released its historic ruling at 11:30 a.m. Citing the equal protection clause of the state constitution, the justices ruled that civil unions were discriminatory and that the state's "understanding of marriage must yield to a more contemporary appreciation of the rights entitled to constitutional protection."

"Interpreting our state constitutional provisions in accordance with firmly established equal protection principles leads inevitably to the conclusion that gay persons are entitled to marry the otherwise qualified same sex partner of their choice," the majority wrote. "To decide otherwise would require us to apply one set of constitutional principles to gay persons and another to all others."
Governor Jodi Rell released a statement saying that she disagrees with the ruling because she feels that civil unions are fair and not discriminatory, but also stating that she will uphold the ruling and does not think that any attempts to overturn it will be successful.

The New York Times has more on the decision, including a link to the full text of the ruling.

The ruling went to the heart of the question of whether civil unions and marriage can be viewed as separate but equal institutions. In the majority opinion, Justice Palmer wrote that they could not be, because the difference between marriage and civil unions was not just that of nomenclature.

“Although marriage and civil unions do embody the same legal rights under our law, they are by no means equal,” Justice Palmer wrote. “The former is an institution of transcendent historical, cultural and social significance, whereas the latter most surely is not.”

Connecticut was the first state to recognize same-sex unions through an act of its legislature, rather than a court order. Still, the judges ruled, that action fell short in giving the state’s gay and lesbian couples the equal protection under the law guaranteed by the state’s Constitution.

“There is no doubt that civil unions enjoy a lesser status in our society than marriage,” the court found. “Ultimately,” the opinion continued, “the message of the civil unions law is that what same-sex couples have is not as important or as significant as real marriage.”

Connecticut is the third state to legalize gay marriage, following Massachusetts and California. Gay couples from other states can come to Connecticut to get married, so this ruling will also have a big impact on New York, which has not legalized same sex marriage but has determined that they will recognize gay marriages performed in other states. New York Governor David Paterson said in a statement that he "applauds" the decision.

So...three states down, 47 more to go?



[Lead plaintiffs Beth Kerrigan and Joanne Mock - they have been together for 14 years and have two sons that they adopted from Guatemala. Image from the New York Times. The Hartford Courant also has a photo gallery of the couples that served as plaintiffs in the case.]

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