Connecticut Supreme Court extends marriage to gays and lesbians

GLBT-rights groups across the nation applauded today a decision by the Connecticut Supreme Court to extend marriage to gay and lesbian couples in the state.

The Supreme Court released its 4-3 ruling in Kerrigan & Mock v. Department of Public Health 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."

Opponents of the ruling have vowed to fight for a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in the face of the court's decision.

In Kerrigan and Mock v. Department of Public Health, Justice Richard N. Palmer wrote for the majority stating, "We conclude that, 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.

"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," Palmer wrote. "To decide otherwise would require us to apply one set of constitutional principles to gay persons and another to all others."

Eight same-sex couples who were unsatisfied with civil-unions 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 then appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court.

Molly McKay, media director of Marriage Equality USA (MEUSA) hailed the historic ruling and called out to the citizens of Connecticut and across the nation to stand together to support this decision. 

"We commend the work of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders and the courage of eight same-sex couples who sought to end marriage discrimination in Connecticut," McKay said. "This decision recognizes that the time has come for same-sex couples to be woven into the fabric of Connecticut families and to have the freedom to enter into the civil institution of marriage."

Neil G. Giuliano, president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) acknowledged the courage and effort of the organizations, leaders and couples behind the push for the ruling.

"Today's decision affirms the love, the mutual responsibility, and the enduring commitment of so many Connecticut couples – gay and straight," Giuliano said.  "It also serves as an important affirmation that all people, regardless of their orientation, should be protected fairly and equally under the law."

While many are rejoicing over the ruling, others are already planning to trump the court's ruling come November.

Citizens of Connecticut who are opposed to the court's decision will focus on the November election when voters will be asked whether the state should convene a constitutional convention. Doing so would allow "direct initiatives" which would open the door for anti-gay rights groups to seek a ban on same-sex marriage.

Photo by Margo Amala on Unsplash

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