Conn. High Court: Civil Unions Discriminate

State Supreme Court ruling paves way for same-sex marriages to start next month.

Oct. 10, 2008 — -- Connecticut's Supreme Court ruled today that gays and lesbians should be afforded the same basic right to marry as any other citizen of the state, paving the way for same-sex marriages to begin in that state before the end of the year.

The court's opinion says that Connecticut's current "scheme [civil unions] discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation."

Republican Gov. Jodi Rell said she disagreed with the ruling, but said the state would not challenge it, convinced "that attempts to reverse this decision -- either legislatively or by amending the state Constitution -- will not meet with success."

With no challenge from the state, gays and lesbians in Connecticut could be getting married as early as mid-November after the the ruling is publicly posted and the necessary mechanisms are put into place.

Today's ruling makes Connecticut the third state to legalize gay marriages, joining Massachusetts and California that have sanctioned same sex marriages. The California law, however, faces a challenge on this fall's ballot.

"This is just an extraordinary day," said Beth Kerrigan on behalf of herself and her partner, Jodie Mock, the named plaintiffs in the case. "We are overjoyed to tell our twin boys that we will be married, just like their friends' parents. We are profoundly grateful to live in a state, which recognizes our equality."

Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) lawyer Ben Klein argued on behalf of eight same-sex couples before the court in May 2007. He challenged the notion that civil unions -- like those enacted in Connecticut, New Jersey, Vermont and New Hampshire -- are a constitutionally adequate alternative.

"What has been denied to these families is something that goes to the heart of equal protection," Klein told the court. He said that gays and lesbians "had the right to be part of the fabric of society when they are just the same as other couples and other families."

The state argued that civil unions gave gays and lesbians the same benefits.

The court sided with GLAD and stated in its ruling, "In light of the history of pernicious discrimination faced by gay men and lesbians, and because the institution of marriage carries with it a status and significance that the newly created classification of civil unions does not embody, the segregation of heterosexual and homosexual couples into separate institutions constitutes a cognizable harm."

Klein said today's court opinion means that Connecticut's gays and lesbians "are full and equal parts of our society," and will now be afforded that basic right of marriage.

While attorneys argued the case, gay marriage opponents vocally opposed the matter. Peter Wolfgang of the Family Institute of Connecticut, a group that opposes gay marriage, had said, "Redefining marriage is a radical change in society and something like that should not be imposed from above by the least democratic branch of our government."

The ruling will be officially filed with the court Oct. 28. Though Rell said the state won't fight the court's decision, the state will legally have 10 days to ask for the ruling to be reconsidered.