Boston Globe: Connecticut Supreme Court legalises same-sex marriage (Oct 10)

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Boston Globe
10 October 2008

Connecticut Supreme Court legalizes same-sex marriage

By Michael Levenson and Andrew Ryan, Globe Staff

Connecticut became the third state to legalize same-sex marriage today
in a 4-3 decision by the state Supreme Court.

In an 85-page decision issued at 11:30 a.m., the court struck down a
law barring same-sex marriage, ruling that the state had "failed to
establish adequate reason to justify the statutory ban."

The justices noted in the majority opinion that they recognized "as
the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court did in Goodridge v. Dept. of
Public Health … that 'our decision marks a change in the history of
our marriage law.' "

The case, Kerrigan v. the state Commissioner of Public Health, was
brought by eight same-sex couples who were denied marriage licenses by
the Madison town clerk. They argued that the state's civil union law
was discriminatory and unconstitutional because it established a
separate and therefore inherently unequal institution for a minority
group. Citing equal protection under the law, the state Supreme Court

"In accordance with these state constitutional requirements, same sex
couples cannot be denied the freedom to marry," said the majority
opinion, which was written by Justice Richard N. Palmer.

State Senator Andrew J. McDonald, cochairman of the state Assembly's
Judiciary Committee, said he believes that gay couples will be allowed
to marry in 20 days, barring attempts by opponents to delay the ruling
with procedural maneuvers. He said he expects the Assembly to update
the state's marriage laws when members reconvene in January, without
much opposition.

"I continue to expect a bipartisan effort to eradicate any remaining
vestiges of discrimination," McDonald said, hailing the ruling as a
"dramatic reaffirmation of Connecticut's commitment to civil rights
and equality for all of her citizens."

"The court has seen through many of the diversionary arguments of our
opponents," McDonald said, "and has firmly established that
discrimination in any context and in any form is unacceptable and

Peter J. Wolfgang, executive director of the Family Institute of
Connecticut, which opposes same-sex marriage, blasted the ruling.

"The decision is an outrage," Wolfgang said in a telephone interview.
"It is essentially a handful of judges acting as if they were rogue
masters usurping the democratic process in Connecticut and radically
redefining marriage by judicial fiat."

Wolfgang said that "our only shot" to stop same-sex marriage is to
push for passage of a ballot question that will appear before
Connecticut voters next month.

Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell said in a statement that she would
abide by the decision even though she disagreed with the court because
of her belief that "marriage is the union of a man and a woman."

"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."

Connecticut joins California and Massachusetts, which became the first
state to allow same-sex marriage in 2004.

In a scathing 25-page dissenting opinion today, Justice Peter T.
Zarella wrote that "there is no fundamental right to same sex marriage."

"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."

In a dissenting opinion written by Justice David M. Borden and signed
by Justice Christine S. Vertefeuille, the judges wrote that, contrary
to arguments made by the plaintiffs, Connecticut's civil union law is
not discriminatory.

"The development of the law in this state dealing with sexual
orientation demonstrates that the legislature had no intention, in
passing the civil union statute, to encourage discrimination against
or to stigmatize homosexuals," the judges wrote. "On the contrary,
that history supports the conclusion that the legislature has been
working toward the eventual passage of a gay marriage bill, and that
the civil union statute was an important step in that process."

In 2005, Connecticut became the first state to establish civil unions
without a court order, but that measure did not end the same-sex
marriage debate. The eight gay couples who were denied licenses sued
the state Department of Public Health, which oversees marriage

Following the governor's lead, there appeared to be little appetite in
the Assembly to fight the ruling.

State Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, a Republican of Fairfield,
issued a statement today saying: "While I believe these decisions are
better left to elected representatives, it is ultimately the province
of the State Supreme Court to interpret our constitution. The Court
carried out that responsibility today and ruled that the institution
of marriage in Connecticut must include same-sex couples. Whether
people agree or disagree, we all need to respect the Court's decision
and abide by the ruling."

At the Family Institute of Connecticut, Wolfgang said that next
month's ballot question asked voters whether the state should hold its
first constitutional convention in 40 years. If the measure passes,
Wolfgang said, activists opposed to gay marriage will press the
Legislature to pass a constitutional amendment that would define
marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The measure would then
need approval from the voters, and the soonest it could be ratified
would be two years, he said.

"Our only shot is to get a yes vote on Election Day," Wolfgang said.
"That is our one opportunity to let people have the same remedy here
in Connecticut as they have out in California," where voters are also
scheduled to take up a ballot amendment next month that would ban
same-sex marriage.