Main | Friday, October 10, 2008

BREAKING: Connecticut Supreme Court Approves Same-Sex Marriage

The Connecticut Supreme Court has just issued its ruling that gays may marry! This has caught a lot of us by surprise. But who cares? Woo hoo!
Same-sex couples won the right to marry in Connecticut in an historic ruling by the Supreme Court today.

Citing the equal protection clause of the state constitution, the justices ruled that civil unions were discriminatory. In a 4-3 decision released at 11:30 a.m., the majority wrote 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."

Unsatisfied with the civil unions approved by the legislature in 2005, 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.

Attorney Bennett Klein, arguing on behalf of the couples, told the court that civil unions were a "less prestigious, less advantageous institution."
What fantastic news! I'll be updating this post with more details shortly.

UPDATE: From the court's ruling: (PDF via Towleroad)

"The issue presented by this case is whether the state statutory prohibition against same sex marriage violates the constitution of Connecticut. The plaintiffs, eight same sex couples, commenced this action, claiming that the state statutory prohibition against same sex marriage violates their rights to substantive due process and equal protection under the state constitution. The trial court rendered summary judgment in favor of the defendant state and local officials upon determining that, because this state’s statutes afford same sex couples the right to enter into a civil union, which affords them the same legal rights as marriage, the plaintiffs had not established a constitutionally cognizable harm. 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.

We also conclude that (1) our state scheme discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation, (2) for the same reasons that classifications predicated on gender are considered quasi-suspect for purposes of the equal protection provisions of the United States constitution, sexual orientation constitutes a quasi-suspect classification for purposes of the equal protection provisions of the state constitution, and, therefore, our statutes discriminating against gay persons are subject to heightened or intermediate judicial scrutiny, and (3) the state has failed to provide sufficient justification for excluding same sex couples from the institution of marriage. In light of our determination that the state’s disparate treatment of same sex couples is constitutionally deficient under an intermediate level of scrutiny, we do not reach the plaintiffs’ claims implicating a stricter standard of review, namely, that sexual orientation is a suspect classification, and that the state’s bar against same sex marriage infringes on a fundamental right in violation of due process and discriminates on the basis of sex in violation of equal protection. In accordance with our conclusion that the statutory scheme impermissibly discriminates against gay persons on account of their sexual orientation, we reverse the trial court’s judgment and remand the case with direction to grant the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment."

UPDATE II: But things could also go like California.
In Connecticut, a question is on the November ballot on whether to hold a constitutional convention. Supporters want to change the constitution to allow "direct initiatives," which would potentially open the door for anti-gay rights groups to seek a ban on same-sex marriage.

A rally sponsored by the conservative Family Institute to urge to court to reject the lawsuit and voters to approve the constitutional convention drew about 2,800 people to the state Capitol Sept. 28. GLAAD and Love Makes A Family have scheduled a rally at the Capitol at 5:30 p.m. today.
UPDATE III: Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell isn't pleased, but doesn't plan to seek an overturn of the court's ruling.
Gov. M. Jodi Rell, who signed the same-sex civil unions bill into law, did not welcome today's state Supreme Court decision giving gay couples the right to marry, but she considers the matter settled.

"I disagree with today's State Supreme Court ruling but as governor, I will uphold it. I continue to believe that marriage is the union of a man and a woman. I also believe that the historic civil union law that I proudly signed in 2005 is equitable and just. We were the first state to enact such a law through legislative action and not a court mandate. "

But Rell also indicated she wants no part of a culture war trying to overturn it, a signal to conservatives that she will play no part in an effort to undo the decision by law or constitutional amendment.

"The Supreme Court has spoken. 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."

Labels: , ,

comments powered by Disqus