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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex marriages and civil unions in Connecticut

2009-APR: Connecticut passes SSM law

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Governor signs SSM legislation:

On the evening of 2009-APR-22, six months after SSM was legalized in Connecticut by the state Supreme Court, the state House and Senate passed Senate Bill S.B. 899, and approved amendments to the state marriage statutes. The bill passed overwhelmingly: the vote in the Senate was 28 to 7; the vote in the House was 100 to 44. This brought the state marriage laws into conformance with the court decision. The bill removed gender references from Connecticut marriage laws. Existing same-sex civil unions will automatically become marriages on 2010-OCT-01.

The state also amends a state anti-discrimination law from 1991. That law had preserved discrimination against sexual minorities by stating that Connecticut did not:

bulletCondone "homosexuality or bisexuality or any equivalent lifestyle,"
bulletRequire the teaching in schools that homosexuality or bisexuality was "... an acceptable lifestyle."
bulletSet quotas for hiring homosexual workers. or
bulletRecognize same-sex marriage.

Governor M. Jodi Rell (R) had said in the past that she believed marriage should be restricted to one man and one woman. However, on the next day after S.B. 899 was passed, she signed the legislation into law without comment. Her decision to make no comment is probably very wise, because any remark -- pro or against -- would distress a substantial number of Connecticut voters. On the other hand, she might have sent a message of approval by signing the bill without delay -- less than 24 hours after its passage through the legislature.

Positive comments and reaction to the law:

Senator Andrew McDonald, (D-Stamford) said:

"Four years ago this week, Gov. Rell signed our groundbreaking civil-union law, which had broad bipartisan support, Today, she signed another landmark piece of bipartisan legislation affirming the rights and dignity of all Connecticut's citizens. Today, all three branches of Connecticut's government speak with one voice: Discrimination has no place in our state and will be eradicated wherever it appears."

Representative Michael Lawlor, (D-East Haven), referred to a string of legislation that started with the law almost a decade previously that allowed same-sex couples to become co-parents in the adoption process. He said:

"I thank Governor Rell for helping our state take the final step in this 10-year-long process and for being fully supportive of our efforts to achieve this important goal. For the first time, gay and lesbian citizens of Connecticut can experience true equality under state law. ... For 10 years, the people of Connecticut have considered whether and how to legally recognize the committed relationships of same-sex couples. Over time, public opinion acknowledged a simple fact: Gay and lesbian couples deserve the same recognition as committed straight couples. At each milestone along this road, a bipartisan consensus endorsed legal recognition of gay and lesbian relationships."

As is usual for politicians and reporters, Lawlor assumed that all same-sex couples are composed of two gays or two lesbians; he ignores bisexuals who also enter into same-sex marriages, either with a homosexual or another bisexual person.

Anne Stanback, president of Love Makes a Family, a gay-positive civil rights group,  was pleased that the governor acted so quickly. She said:

"The approved bill includes reasonable exceptions to ensure religious freedom for clergy and religious organizations, exceptions that already exist in state law." 1

She also issued a statement that said. in part:

"This bipartisan vote is a strong affirmation of the Kerrigan decision and the dignity and respect of same-sex couples and their families. Today, fairness won out over fear." 2

Her mention of "Kerrigan" refers to the lawsuit (Kerrigan & Mock v. the CT Department of Public Health) that led to the state Supreme Court legalizing SSM.

Comments that newspaper readers attached to articles on this topic were overwhelmingly positive.

Amendment to protect continuing discrimination by faith groups:

The original bill did not include any protections for groups such as the Knights of Columbus, who frequently rents halls for weddings and wedding receptions. or for clergy who might not want to marry same-sex couples. An amendment was added to the bill that offers protections to clergy and religious groups who wish to continue to discriminate against sexual minorities. They can freely deny services, goods or facilities to same-sex couples.

Peter Wolfgang, executive director of the Family Institute of Connecticut, a group that opposes SSM, considered the amendment "a significant improvement. " He said that: "It made a bad bill better." 3

Matt Barber of Liberty Counsel, a fundamentalist Christian legal advocacy group, predicts that groups that promote marriage equality will try to have the amendment repealed or will attempt to attack faith groups somehow by working around the amendment. 4

OneNewsNow (ONN) reports that a pro-family group -- presumably a group that has actively opposed families led by a same-sex couples -- regards the amendment as imperfect, but agrees that the amended bill is a significant advance in favor of religious liberty. They consider the supreme court's 2008 decision to be "illegitimate." 4 ONN did not identify the name of the group.

Opposition to the bill:

Carol Gignac, a 62-year-old Roman Catholic from Bristol, CT wore a sticker that said: "Religious liberty: Our freedom first." She said that she was praying during much of the day for God to show mercy on Connecticut, and presumably not display his wrath towards the legislators who voted in favor of the bill or towards the general public. She said:
"The sad day was [when] the state Supreme Court changing the thousands-of-years definition of marriage as between one man and one woman, across cultures, across times." 3

Matt Barber said:

"It's unfortunate that these legislators would go with the pop-culture notion of same-sex marriage, really in opposition to the will of the people. ... This really should go on a ballot initiative. In every instance where the people have had a say as to radically redefine natural marriage and introduce counterfeit marriage, in every instance the people have voted to maintain the definition of natural marriage." 4

On 2009-APR-28, three members of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, KS came to Hartford, CT to protest the state Supreme Court ruling that legalized SSM in 2008. The Church has been included in the list of hate groups maintained by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The Westboro Baptist church is well know for its God Hates Fags web site, and its picketing and disruptions at funerals of service men and women. Their belief is that God is arranging the deaths of armed forces personnel as punishment for the nation's acceptance of homosexuality.

They attracted about a half-dozen counter-protestors, at least ten law enforcement officials. There is no record in the media of any supporters. Tara Crawford, 32, a counter-protestor, said: "We wanted to answer hate with something positive. Joshua Demers, 29, another counter-protestor, said: "More love, less hate." 5

References used:

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

  1. Ken Dixon, "Rell signs gay marriage bill. Aligns statutes with court ruling," The Stamford Advocate, 2009-APR-23, at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/
  2. "Gov. Rell Signs Gay Marriage Bill," The Hartford Courant, 2009-APR-23, at: http://www.courant.com/
  3. Susan Haigh, :Connecticut Assembly votes to redefine marriage," OneNewsNow, 2009-APR-23, at: http://onenewsnow.com/
  4. Charlie Butts, "Conn. 4th state to legalize same-sex 'marriage'," One News Now, 2009-APR-24. at: http://www.onenewsnow.com/ 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.
  5. Daniela Altimari, "Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church Protests Gay Marriage Law," The Harford Courant, 2009-APR-28, at: http://www.chicagotribune.com/

Site navigation:

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

Copyright 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
First posted: 2009-APR-24
Latest update: 2009-APR-29
Author: B.A. Robinson

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