Alex Blaze

Connecticut legalizes same-sex marriage

Filed By Alex Blaze | October 10, 2008 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: Connecticut, gay marriage, marriage, same-sex marriage

The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that civil unions aren't OK, and the state has to recognize same-sex couples with marriage.

Updates to come.

Update: Not just same-sex marriage, but the court also went the way of California and made sexual orientation a suspect class:

In sum, the relatively modest political influence that gay persons possess is insufficient to rectify the invidious discrimination to which they have been subjected for so long. Like the political gains that women had made prior to their recognition as a quasi-suspect class, the political advances that gay persons have attained afford them inadequate protection, standing alone, in view of the deep-seated and pernicious nature of the prejudice and antipathy that they continue to face. Today, moreover, women have far greater political power than gay persons, yet they continue to be accorded status as a quasi-suspect class. [...]

We conclude, therefore, that, to the extent that gay persons possess some political power, it does not disqualify them from recognition as a quasi-suspect class under the state constitution in view of the pervasive and invidious discrimination to which they historically have been subjected due to an innate personal characteristic that has absolutely no bearing on their ability to perform in or contribute to society.

More after.

I'm also hearing that Connecticut doesn't have one of those laws that requires people to be a resident of that state to marry there, meaning that anyone can go there to get married.

Also, Connecticut doesn't have a ballot initiative process, meaning that this would have to be turned over at a constitutional convention, which can only happen every 20 years in Connecticut.

Guess when that 20 years comes up? Yup, this November, Nutmeggers are going to be asked if they want to have a constitutional convention. I don't know how that's polling now, but I'll find out.

Update II: A couple more highlights from the decision itself.

The important part:

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.

Here's the court's analysis of immutability, which is required under CT law to prove that a group is a suspect class:

A number of courts that have considered this factor have rejected the claim that sexual orientation is an immutable characteristic.28 Other courts, however, as well as many, if not most, scholarly commentators, have reached a contrary conclusion.29 Although we do not doubt that sexual orientation--heterosexual or homosexual-- is highly resistant to change, it is not necessary for us to decide whether sexual orientation is immutable in the same way and to the same extent that race, national origin and gender are immutable, because, even if it is not, the plaintiffs nonetheless have established that they fully satisfy this consideration. Sexual intimacy is ''a sensitive, key relationship of human existence, central to . . . the development of
human personality . . . .'' Paris Adult Theatre I v. Slaton, 413 U.S. 49, 63, 93 S. Ct. 2628, 37 L. Ed. 2d 446 (1973). Thus, the United States Supreme Court has recognized that, because ''the protected right of homosexual adults to engage in intimate, consensual conduct . . . [represents] an integral part of human freedom''; Lawrence v. Texas, supra, 539 U.S. 576-77; individual decisions by consenting adults concerning the intimacies of their physical relationships are entitled to constitutional protection. See id., 578. Indeed, it is indisputable that sexual orientation ''forms a significant part of a person's identity.'' Able v. United States, 968 F. Sup. 850, 863 (E.D.N.Y. 1997), rev'd on other grounds, 155 F.3d 628 (2d Cir. 1998); see also L. Tribe, supra, ยง 16-33, p. 1616 (sexual orientation, whether homosexual or heterosexual, is central to personality of individual). It is equally apparent that, ''[b]ecause a person's sexual orientation is so integral an aspect of one's identity, it is not appropriate to require a person to repudiate or change his or her sexual orientation in order to avoid discriminatory treatment.'' In re Marriage Cases, supra, 43 Cal. 4th 842; see also Hernandez-Montiel v. Immigration & Naturalization Service, 225 F.3d 1084, 1093 (9th Cir. 2000) (''[s]exual orientation and sexual identity . . . are so fundamental to one's identity that a person should not be required to abandon them''); Watkins v. United States Army, supra, 875 F.2d 726 (Norris, J., concurring in the judgment) (''Scientific proof aside, it [also] seems appropriate to ask whether heterosexuals feel capable of changing their sexual orientation. Would heterosexuals living in a city that passed an ordinance burdening those who engaged in or desired to engage in sex with persons of the opposite sex find it easy not only to abstain from heterosexual activity but also to
shift the object of their sexual desires to persons of the same sex? . . . [T]he possibility of such a difficult and traumatic change does not make sexual orientation 'mutable' for equal protection purposes.'' [Citations omitted; emphasis in original.]); Jantz v. Muci, supra, 759 F. Sup. 1548 (''to discriminate against individuals who accept their given sexual orientation and refuse to alter that orientation to conform to societal norms does significant violence to a central and defining character of those individuals'').[...]

In other words, gay persons, because they are characterized by a ''central, defining [trait] of personhood, which may be altered [if at all] only at the expense of significant damage to the individual's sense of self''; Jantz v. Muci, supra, 759 F. Sup. 1548; are no less entitled to consideration as a suspect or quasi-suspect class than any other group that has been deemed to exhibit an immutable characteristic. See id.; see also note, supra, 98 Harv. L. Rev. 1303 (sexual orientation, like race and sex, is ''one of only a handful of characteristics that ha[s] such a pervasive and profound impact on the [relevant] aspects of personhood''). To decide otherwise
would be to penalize someone for being unable or unwilling to ''change . . . a central aspect of individual and group identity''; Watkins v. United States Army, supra, 726 (Norris, J., concurring in the judgment); a result repugnant ''to the values animating the constitutional
ideal of equal protection of the laws.''

On the effectiveness of the "traditional marriage" argument:

A classification, however, cannot be maintained merely 'for its own sake' [Romer v. Evans, supra, 517 U.S. 635]. Instead, the classification ([that is], the exclusion of gay [persons] from civil marriage) must advance a state interest that is separate from the classification itself [see id., 633, 635]. Because the 'tradition' of excluding gay [persons] from civil marriage is no different from the classification itself, the exclusion cannot be justified on the basis of 'history.' Indeed, the justification of 'tradition' does not explain the classification; it merely repeats it. Simply put, a history or tradition of discrimination-- no matter how entrenched--does not make the discrimination constitutional . . . .'' (Citation omitted.) Hernandez v. Robles, supra, 7 N.Y.3d 395 (Kaye, C. J., dissenting); cf. Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health, supra, 440 Mass. 348 (Greaney, J., concurring) (''[t]o define the institution of marriage by the characteristics of those to whom it always has been accessible, in order to justify the exclusion of those to whom it never has been accessible, is conclusory and bypasses the core question [that the court has been] asked to decide''). Indeed, ''the fact that same-sex couples have traditionally been prohibited from marrying is the reason [the action challenging the ban on same sex marriage] was commenced; it cannot be converted into the dispositive reason it cannot succeed.'' In re Marriage Cases, supra, 49 Cal. Rptr. 3d 750 (Kline, J., concurring and dissenting).

And the conclusion:

We recognize, as the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court did in Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health, supra, 440 Mass. 309, that ''our decision marks a change in the history of our marriage law. Many people hold deepseated religious, moral, and ethical convictions that marriage should be limited to the union of one man and one woman, and that homosexual conduct is immoral.
Many hold equally strong religious, moral, and ethical convictions that same-sex couples are entitled to be married, and that homosexual persons should be treated no differently than their heterosexual neighbors. Neither view answers the question before [the court]. Our concern is with [our state] [c]onstitution as a charter of governance for every person properly within its reach.'' Id., 312.

The drafters of our constitution carefully crafted its provisions in general terms, reflecting fundamental principles, knowing that a lasting constitution was needed. Like the framers of the federal constitution, they also ''knew [that] times can blind us to certain truths, and later generations can see that laws once thought necessary and proper in fact serve only to oppress. As the [c]onstitution endures, persons in every generation can invoke its principles in their own search for greater freedom.'' Lawrence v. Texas, supra, 539 U.S. 579. Not long ago, this court made the same essential point, explaining that ''as we engage over time in the interpretation of our state constitution, we must consider the changing needs and expectations of the citizens of our state.'' State v. Webb, 238 Conn. 389, 411, 680 A.2d 147 (1996). This admonition applies no less to the guarantee of equal protection embodied in our constitution than to any other state constitutional provision.

Even though the right to marry is not enumerated in our constitution, it long has been deemed a basic civil right. E.g., Loving v. Virginia, supra, 388 U.S. 12 (''[m]arriage is one the basic civil rights of man'' [internal quotation marks omitted]); Skinner v. Oklahoma ex rel. Williamson, 316 U.S. 535, 541, 62 S. Ct. 1110, 86 L. Ed. 1655 (1942) (same). Although we traditionally have viewed that right as limited to a union between a man and a woman, ''if we have learned anything from the significant evolution in the prevailing societal views and official policies toward members of minority races and toward women over the past half-century, it is that even the most familiar and generally accepted of social practices and traditions often mask unfairness and inequality that frequently is not recognized or appreciated by those not directly harmed by those practices or traditions. It is instructive to recall in this regard that the traditional, well-established legal rules and practices of our not-so-distant past (1) barred interracial marriage, (2) upheld the routine exclusion of women from many occupations and official duties, and (3) considered the relegation of racial minorities to separate and assertedly equivalent public facilities and institutions as constitutionally equal treatment.'' In re Marriage Cases, supra, 43 Cal. 4th 853-54.

Like these once prevalent views, our conventional 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. To decide otherwise would require us to apply one set of constitutional principles to gay persons and another to all others. 83 The guarantee of equal protection under the law, and our obligation to uphold that command, forbids us from doing so. In accordance with these state constitutional requirements, same sex couples cannot be denied the freedom to marry.84

Update III: And the statements are coming in.

The org of the hour, GLAD, which argued the case:

In an historic decision, Connecticut's Supreme Court ruled today that gay and lesbian couples in the Constitution State deserve marriage. Not domestic partnerships or civil unions, but full and equal marriage and the respect and security that only marriage provides.

Today's ruling, in GLAD's case Kerrigan & Mock et all v. Connecticut Department of Public Health, makes Connecticut the second state in New England--and the third in the United States--to swing open the doors to true equality for lesbian and gay couples.

The Task Force:

"This is a momentous victory for the people of Connecticut and all Americans who hold fairness as a fundamental value. The high court's analysis comes down to this simple yet profound principle: All of Connecticut's families deserve and need the protections, rights and responsibilities that support and sustain them, and should be treated equally under the law.

"We thank the plaintiffs for their courage and our colleagues at Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders and their cooperating counsel for their outstanding advocacy on behalf of our community. We also applaud the years of work undertaken by our state partner, Love Makes a Family, which played a central role in creating a climate in Connecticut that made today's historic opinion possible."

And HRC:

This is a very proud day for Connecticut and a very proud day for every American who believes in the promise of equal rights for all.

The Connecticut Supreme Court recognized that gay and lesbian couples who form committed relationships and loving families deserve the same level of respect afforded to straight couples. The court did its job by making clear that the state constitution guarantees the same rights and protections for everyone.

This decision strengthens Connecticut families. We congratulate and commend the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), Love Makes a Family, which worked closely with GLAD on this case, and, of course, the courageous plaintiff couples and their families who looked to the courts to vindicate their rights.

Update IV: Here's video of the plaintiffs winning.

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It's nice to hear some good news these days!

I think I'd still go to California.

In the words of Freddie Mercury and Queen: "Can anybody find me . . . somebody to love?"

I don't know how I didn't even know that this was even on the table! Hopefully it'll stick in CT!

Also... as a side note: did anyone else realize that people living in Connecticut are called Connecticutians (pronounced like connect-o-cue-shee-an). What are people in Massachusetts? Massachusetters? Massachusettians? Massachusettlers?

Does anyone know when Same Sex couples can actually marry there?

There is generally a waiting period to allow the government to change forms and implement new procedures, etc. Since this is changing a long-standing practice that has become entrenched in every document and form used, that's a lot of work (there's more than just marriage apps that need changed.)

It's usually 90 days to 180 days (3-6 months). I'd say that's probably going to be the case here. I'm sure there is something in the law that specifies how it works. I skimmed the ruling and found no time-frame for implementation of the ruling.

Actually, the timing of the implementation of a decision like this is governed by the court rules as to when a decision becomes final -- typically, 30 days after the decision when the time for filing a motion for reconsideration expires, not by bureaucratic necessity. (This is why California same-sex couples had to wait 30 days after the decision there before they could marry, not so the forms could be changed to implement the decision.) Regardless of whether the Connecticut marriage licensing agency(ies)has had time to change their forms, once this decision becomes final, they cannot deny the right of same-sex couples to marry.

I read Oct 28, so very soon!

Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | October 10, 2008 1:06 PM

This is fantastic news! It shows without a doubt that the work of LGBT activists and allies is paying off.

Be aware, though, that it does not get easier from here. The anti-gay hate brigade will redouble their efforts to deny us full legal equality and there is the possibility that we could lose in California.

We have to continue to keep our eyes on the prize and work our hearts to achieve what we know should be ours.

I just had a call from a journalist who writes for Dobson's "Focus on the Family" newsletter. She saw my name as a $2500.00 contributor to VoteNoOnProp8 from the Secretary of State of California. She asked me what I thought about the large amount of money being raised by the organizers of Proposition 8 aka Focus on the Family? I must admit, I think many voters will be swayed by their ads, "boys are taught to marry boys". The media group hired by VoteNoOnProp8 dropped the ball, their ads are weak in comparison. They should have shown real people like the late Del Martin getting married.