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Same-sex marriages and civil unions in Connecticut

Timeline; poll; bill passes
Senate. Bill introduced to House

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  • 2001: The Judiciary Committee the Connecticut Legislature held an informal hearing on civil unions. No action was taken.
  • 2002: The legislature approved a bill extending limited rights to same-sex couples.
  • 2003-APR: The Judiciary Committee rejected a bill to extend essentially all state rights, benefits and obligations of marriage to same-sex couples. After nearly three  hours of debate, the bill was voted down by a vote of 26 to 16.
  • 2004-AUG: Seven same-sex couples launch a lawsuit, seeking the right to marry.
  • 2005-FEB-23: The Judiciary Committee passed a civil union bill by a vote of 25 to 13.
  • 2005-APR-13: The Legislature approved a bill which would give full state rights to same-sex couples. The bill returned to the Senate to harmonize the Senate and House versions of the bill.
  • 2005-APR-20: Governor M. Jodi Rell (R), signed the bill into law. It gives same-sex couples many of the same rights, privileges and obligations that opposite-sex couples receive when they marry. It would not allow them to obtain a marriage license. It would not grant them any of the more than 1,000 federal benefits of marriage.
  • 2005-OCT-01: Civil unions first became available in Connecticut.
  • 2006-JUL: Trial court rules against same-sex couples seeking right to marry.
  • 2007-MAY-14: State Supreme Court hears lawsuit by eight same-sex couples seeking equal access to marriage.

Public opinion poll:

Quinnipiac University conducted a poll of 1,541 registered voters in Connecticut. The margin of error is ©2.5 percentage points. They determined that the majority supported a civil union law for same sex couples:

  • 56% favored civil unions;
  • 37% were opposed;
  • 7% were undecided or did not answer. 1

In the same poll, most subjects oppose same-sex marriage by a narrower margin:

  • 53% opposed;
  • 42% in favor;
  • 5% undecided or did not answer.

Douglas Schwartz, director of Q Poll commented on the poll and noted the profound effect that age has on opinions about same-sex couples. He said:

"Connecticut is more liberal than the rest of the nation. Nationwide, most Americans oppose both gay marriage and civil unions. ... Seventy-six percent of those 65 and over oppose gay marriage, while 19 percent support it. For the 18-to-29 age group, you can basically flip the number with 79 percent in support of same-sex marriage and 19 percent opposed." 1

Senate passes bill:

Senator Andrew J. McDonald, (D-Stamford) introduced a civil union bill into the Connecticut Senate. It states that same-sex:

"Parties to a civil union shall have all the same benefits, protections and responsibilities under law, whether derived from the general statutes, administrative regulations or court rules, policy, common law or any other source of civil law, as are granted to spouses in a marriage." 2

That statement is somewhat confusing. It would create a system of civil unions which would give all of the many hundreds of state benefits and responsibilities that had been reserved as special privileges for opposite-sex couples. But civil union legislation would not grant to same-sex couples any of the over 1,000 federal benefits.

The state Senate, which is controlled by Democrats, approved on a civil union bill on 2005-APR-7 by an overwhelming vote of 27 to 9. The voting was primarily along party lines. The Senate then had 24 Democrats and 12 Republicans. It then went to the House.

Republicans proposed an amendment to the bill which would have defined marriage as between one man and one woman. It was defeated. Governor M. Jodi Rell (R) favored passage of the amendment. She personally supports civil unions for same-sex couples. She opposes same-sex marriage and had not made a definitive commitment to sign or veto this bill if it did not contain the amendment.

Responses are as expected:

  • Rev. Davida Foy Crabtree, minister of the Connecticut Conference of the United Church of Christ said:

"Our responsibility as a state is to have laws that ensure the well-being of each of our citizens."

  • Brian Brown, executive director of the Family Institute of Connecticut apparently denied the accuracy of the poll data. He said:

"The legislators have not yet heard from the people. They're not listening. Connecticut, we're the ones that are doing something far, far different than the rest of the United States." 3

  • Brian S. Brown, Director of the Family Institute of Connecticut said that a demonstration will proceed on APR-24 as planned, even if the bill has been signed into law by the governor. He said:

"If it's too late, we're going to have a massive protest rally like the state has never seen. If Governor Rell truly believes that marriage is between a man and a woman, she needs to veto this bill." 2

This is a curious comment, because marriage in Connecticut would remain unchanged at one man and one woman. The only effect of the bill would be to create a parallel system of civil unions.

The demonstration ended up being four days too late.

Attorney General gives opinion:

On 2005-APR-13, Richard Blumenthal, the Attorney General of Connecticut ruled that the civil union bill will not allow same-sex couples to marry. Governor M. Jodi Rell (R), who opposes same-sex marriage but supports the theory of civil unions concept, requested the opinion from Blumenthal. He said:

"If the governor is concerned about authorizing same-sex marriages, she can sign this bill with a high degree of comfort. Emphatically, unequivocally, without any doubt, this law in no way would permit same-sex marriages in Connecticut." 4

Supporters of the bill in the House indicated that they had sufficient votes to pass the Bill.

Bill introduced to the House:

Representative Michael P. Lawlor (D-East Haven) sponsored the corresponding bill in the House. He is co-chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

House Minority Leader Robert M. Ward, (R-North Branford), predicted on 2005-APR-07 that the House vote would be very close. He said: "Without the amendment [to confirm that marriage is restricted to opposite-sex couples] I think it's too close to call today," If the amendment is not proposed, he planed to ask that the bill be sent to the Planning & Development Committee, because of its impact on the workload of local town clerks, who would be responsible for registering gay couples.

Bruce A. Ackerman, Sterling professor of law and political science at Yale law school issued a statement on APR-12. It said, in part, "The amendment is not needed to resolve ambiguity about the current exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage." The statement was signed by 78 other Yale law professors. 5

Rep. Lawlor said on APR-07 that even if the bill is sent to another committee, the House could vote on it as early as APR-13. He said:

"Members of the P&D Committee are just as supportive as other members of the House....I think if you're OK with civil unions, you're almost OK with same-sex marriage. In a few years, the things gay couples won't have access to will become more apparent." 6

Actually, the bill affects more than gay couples; it has an impact on all same-sex couples including those in which one or both partners are bisexual.

House Speaker James Amann, (D-Milford), opposes civil unions and believes that the eventual goal of civil libertarians, gay-positive organizations, etc  is same-sex marriage. He said:

"I strictly, 100 percent believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. I know this building. If anybody thinks they will go away after we pass civil unions, they are fooling themselves. They'll come back next year for marriage." 7

Amman appears to have been unaware that the drive for full marriage rights and privileges through the courts had already been underway for many months. Seven same-sex couples had already launched a lawsuit in 2004-AUG seeking equal marital rights to opposite-sex couples.

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Connecticut Voters Back Same Sex Civil Unions, Quinnipiac University Poll Finds; But Most Oppose Gay Marriage," Quinnipiac University, 20075-APR-07, at: http://www.quinnipiac.edu/
  2. "Connecticut's Democrat-Controlled Senate Approves Civil Unions for Homosexuals," LifeSit4eNews, 2005-APR-07.
  3. Susan Haigh, "Conn. lawmakers may OK civil union bill," Associated Press, 2005-APR-05, at: http://news.yahoo.com/
  4. "Connecticut poised to approve civil unions," E-Alert, Massachusetts Family Institute, 2005-APR-13.
  5. "Rell Sets Civil Unions Conditions; She'll Sign Only If Blumenthal Says Bill Doesn't Allow Gay Marriage," Hartford Courant, 2005-APR-13, at: http://www.courant.com/
  6. Ken Dixon, "Poll: 56% support civil union. But state voters still oppose gay marriage," Connecticut Post, 2005-APR-08, at: http://www.connpost.com/
  7. Fred Lucas, "House stalls civil union bill," NewsTimes LIVE.com, 2005-APR-08, at: http://news.newstimeslive.com/

Site navigation:

Home > "Hot" topics > Homosexuality > Couples > SSM/Civil unions > CT > here

Copyright 2005 to 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
First posted: 2005-APR-06
Latest update: 2007-MAY-14
Author: B.A. Robinson

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