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Same-sex marriages and civil unions in Connecticut

State Supreme Court OK's
same-sex marriage (SSM)

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Seven same-sex couples in Madison, CT applied for marriage licenses on 2004-AUG-23, and, as they expected, were refused. Each was in a loving, committed long-term relationship of from 13 to 31 years duration.

The couples filed a lawsuit (Kerrigan & Mock v. the CT Department of Public Health) 1 on 2004-AUG-25 in New Haven Superior Court with the assistance of the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) of Boston, MA. This is the same group who had previously won marriage rights in Massachusetts and civil union rights in Vermont for same-sex couples.

Their case was based on their belief that Connecticut marriage law conflicted with the Constitution of the state.

bullet Articles 1, 8, 10, and 20 of the Constitution guaranteed all couples equal protection and due process under law.
bullet Articles 4,5 and 14 guaranteed all couples rights to "intimate and expressive association". 1

Yet the government restricted marriage licenses in the state as a special privilege only for opposite-sex couples.

The case was heard on 2006-MAR-21, and ruled upon on 2006-JUN-12,. The plaintiffs lost and appealed the case to the Connecticut Supreme Court. 2 A hearing before the Supreme Court began on 2007-MAY-14. 3

The state Supreme Court ruling:

The Supreme Court ruled in the plaintiffs' favor on 2008-OCT-10 by a vote of 4 to 3. The majority agreed that both the existing marriage laws and civil union laws discriminated against same-sex couples, and were thus unconstitutional. Same-sex couples are to be allowed to marry. The ruling stated 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. ... To decide otherwise would require us to apply one set of constitutional principles to gay persons and another to all others." 4
The ruling took effect on 2008-OCT-28, and cannot be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. It perpetuated the misunderstanding that all same-sex spouses are homosexual. In fact, some same-sex marriages are between a homosexual and a bisexual; a few are between two bisexuals.

This was the first decision by a state supreme court to rule that civil unions violated the equal protection clause of a state constitution.

The New York Times commented:
"Striking at the heart of discriminatory traditions in America, the court -- in language that often rose above the legal landscape into realms of social justice for a new century -- recalled that laws in the not-so-distant past barred interracial marriages, excluded women from occupations and official duties, and relegated blacks to separate but supposedly equal public facilities."

" 'Like these once prevalent views, our conventional understanding of marriage must yield to a more contemporary appreciation of the rights entitled to constitutional protection,' Justice Richard N. Palmer wrote for the majority in a 4-to-3 decision that explored the nature of homosexual identity, the history of societal views toward homosexuality and the limits of gay political power compared with that of blacks and women. '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,' Justice Palmer declared. 'To decide otherwise would require us to apply one set of constitutional principles to gay persons and another to all others'."

"... 'Although marriage and civil unions do embody the same legal rights under our law, they are by no means equal,' Justice Palmer wrote in the majority opinion, joined by Justices Flemming L. Norcott Jr., Joette Katz and Lubbie Harper. 'The former is an institution of transcendent historical, cultural and social significance, whereas the latter is not'." 6

In his dissent, Justice Peter Zarella said that the decision to expand the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples can only be done by the legislature. He wrote, in part:
"The ancient definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman has its basis in biology, not bigotry. If the state no longer has an interest in the regulation of procreation, then that is a decision for the legislature or the people of the state and not this court." 4

The word "procreation" is ambiguous. Sometimes it is used to refer to a man and a woman living together and conceiving a child who is genetically theirs. Other times it is more general in tone and also includes cases where infertile couples use in-vitro fertilization, artificial insemination, etc. to conceive; it includes adopting babies, etc.

bullet Using the latter definition, Zarella's opinion seems to imply incorrectly that same-sex couples cannot have babies. In fact, female same-sex couples are in exactly the same position as an opposite-sex couple in which the male is infertile. Both types of couples can normally conceive through artificial insemination or other assisted reproduction techniques.
bullet Using the former definition, it is generally agreed that the state has an interest in encouraging couples to have babies in order to prevent a drop in population. However, to regulate exactly which couples should be allowed to have children would seem to be a clear violation of the equal protection clauses in the state Constitution.

Results of newspaper poll:

The Harford Courant newspaper conducted an online poll asking its readers "Do you support same-sex couples' right to marry in Connecticut. By 2008-OCT-13:

bullet 4.606 responses (71.1%) said yes.
bullet 1.246 (19.2%) said no.
bullet 623 (9.6%) said that they did not support SSM but did support civil unions. 5

Being an online poll these results do not necessarily represent opinion in Connecticut as a whole.

The most popular stories on OCT-13 -- Monday morning following the Friday decision by the Supreme Court -- did not include SSM! The most viewed stories related to a student accident, death of a police officer, criticism of Vice-President candidate Palin, a dispute in a restaurant, and an abandoned toddler. People in the state seem to have accepted the cultural change and moved on.

References used:

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

  1. Elizabeth Kerrigan et al, v. State of Connecticut," at: **
  2. "Connecticut Marriage/Relationship Recognition Law," Human Rights Campaign, undated, at:
  3. Stephanie Reitz, "Conn.'s civil unions law faces challenge," The Guardian, 2007-MAY-14, at:
  4. Mark Spencer, et al., "High court grants marriage rights for same-sex couples," Hartford Courant, 2008-OCT-10, at:
  5. "Same-sex Marriage in Connecticut?," Hartford Courant, 2008-OCT-13, at:
  6. Robert D. McFadden, "Gay Marriage Is Ruled Legal in Connecticut," New York Times, 2008-OCT-10, at:
  7. Ken Dixon, "Rell signs gay marriage bill. Aligns statutes with court ruling," The Stamford Advocate, 2009-APR-23, at:
  8. "Gov. Rell Signs Gay Marriage Bill," The Hartford Courant, 2009-APR-23, at:
  9. Susan Haigh, :Connecticut Assembly votes to redefine marriage," OneNewsNow, 2009-APR-23, at:
  10. Charlie Butts, "Conn. 4th state to legalize same-sex 'marriage'," One News Now, 2009-APR-24. at: Social and religious conservatives often show the word marriage in quotation marks when referring to same-sex marriage. This is to indicate their rejection of SSM and equivalent to opposite-sex marriage.

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

Copyright 2007 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
First posted: 2007-MAY-14
Latest update: 2009-APR-24
Author: B.A. Robinson

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