Connecticut became the third state in the United States to legalize gay marriage when the Connecticut Supreme Court, by a 4-3 vote, ruled that civil unions were an unsatisfactory substitute. Massachusetts and California have also legalized gay marriage, although California's Proposition 8, if passed, would restore the traditional definition of marriage in that state. The most detailed story on this decision comes from the Hartford Courant, which is the state's leading newspaper. Other stories published by OneNewsNow, CNN, ABC News, the New York Times, and the Connecticut Law Tribune.
Index to all previous Hartford Courant stories on this issue HERE.
The Court released its historic ruling at 11:30 A.M. on October 10th, 2008. 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."
Click HERE to review 85-page majority decision in PDF format.
- Justice Borden's dissent HERE
- Justice Vertefeuille's dissent HERE
- Justice Zarella's dissent HERE
In one of the three separate dissents, Justice Peter Zarella said any decision on gay marriage should be left to the legislature, which approved civil unions in 2005 but has been reluctant since then to go further. "The ancient definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman has its basis in biology, not bigotry," Zarella wrote. "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."
Justices Flemming L. Norcott Jr., Joette Katz, Richard Palmer and Appellate Judge Lubbie Harper, sitting for Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers, who recused himself, formed the majority. Justices David M. Borden and Christine Vertefeuille joined Zarella in dissenting.
Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell said she disagreed with it, but would uphold it. She said she was proud to sign the state's civil unions law in 2005, the first in the nation enacted without a court mandate, and thought it was equitable and just. "The Supreme Court has spoken," Rell said. "I do not believe their voice reflects the majority of the people of Connecticut. However, I am also firmly convinced that attempts to reverse this decision -- either legislatively or by amending the state Constitution -- will not meet with success. I will therefore abide by the ruling."
Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, whose office represented the state in the case, said the decision, which takes effect October 28th, "must be respected" and cannot be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court because it was based on the state constitution. "My office is reviewing the decision to determine whether any further action is necessary to conform our laws and procedures to the state Supreme Court's ruling," he said. [Ed. Note: Time for a constitutional amendment in Connecticut, then.]
Pro-gay State Sen. Andrew J. McDonald praised the ruling, calling it a bright day for Connecticut and all her citizens. He said the legislature must now take steps to clarify state law to comply with the court's ruling. This step appears necessary before bureaucrats begin issuing marriage licenses.
Opponents were obviously disappointed in the ruling. "The court has just usurped democracy in Connecticut and redefined marriage by judicial force,'' said Peter Wolfgang, executive director of the Family Institute of Connecticut.
The opposition will now turn its sights to the November election, when voters will be asked whether the state should convene a constitutional convention. "Connecticut voters will have one opportunity on November 4th to reassert their right to self government. We must vote yes". Advocates of a constitutional convention believe it will make it easier to craft and field a statewide popular referendum on marriage.
The case originated back in 2004. Unsatisfied with the civil unions, eight same-sex couples had brought the case, Kerrigan v. the state Commissioner of Public Health, after they were denied marriage licenses in 2004 by the Madison town clerk, who was following instructions issued by the state attorney general's office. The state, arguing that civil unions already provide all the rights and protections of marriage, prevailed in a Superior Court ruling in July 2006. The couples appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court, which heard three hours of arguments on the case in May 2007.
The Boston-based Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders law firm representing the couples pursued numerous legal arguments, contending that same-sex marriage was both a fundamental right and guaranteed under the ban on sexual anti-sexual discrimination in the constitution, despite the fact that marriage is not a formally-specified right in the U.S. Constitution.
Commentary: Apparently anticipating the Connecticut decision, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has called on its members to advocate even more vigorously on behalf of California's Proposition 8, which would simply amend the state's constitution to define marriage solely as being between one man and one woman. As of October 8th, it is estimated that Mormons have donated $19 million of the total $25 million given to the Yes-On-8 campaign, while opponents of Proposition 8 have raised just under $16 million. But it's not just a Mormon thing; people from other denominations and faiths, and even the unchurched, have joined in this campaign to defend traditional marriage. Both the ProtectMarriage and the Preserving Marriage websites are good sources of information to wage this campaign successfully.
And the campaign to pass Prop 8 seems to be working. A recent poll by the "No" group shows Prop 8 leading by four points, while a San Francisco T.V. poll shows 47 percent support Prop 8 and 42 percent oppose it.