- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Connecticut Supreme Court gave gay couples the right to marry, ruling Friday that the legislature’s civil-unions law discriminates against homosexuals in violation of the state constitution.

The 4-3 decision makes Connecticut the third state - after California and Massachusetts - to allow same-sex marriages and also casts doubt on the long-term viability of gay civil unions as a compromise measure, which has happened in seven other states and the District of Columbia. The Connecticut legislature passed a civil-unions bill in 2005 that granted all the rights and responsibilities of marriage, but the court ruled that wasn’t enough.

“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,” Justice Richard N. Palmer wrote in the majority decision.

Click here for the state’s decision (PDF)

The three judges who opposed the decision filed separate sharply worded dissents and denounced the majority’s claim that the traditional definition of marriage is merely the product of anti-gay prejudice.

Justice Peter T. Zarella wrote that the court’s majority failed to discuss the purpose of marriage laws, which he said is to “privilege and regulate procreative conduct,” adding that “the ancient definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman has its basis in biology, not bigotry. 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 praising the decision, Lee Swislow, executive director the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, said it should show other states that domestic partnerships are not sufficient.

“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, dignity and security that only marriage provides,” he said.

This aspect of the decision also fueled the anger among social conservatives.

“Even the legislature, as liberal as ours, decided that marriage is between a man and a woman,” said Peter Wolfgang, executive director of the Family Institute of Connecticut. “This is about our right to govern ourselves. It is bigger than gay marriage.”

“Why do we even need the legislative and executive branches of government if the courts are going to brazenly legislate from the bench?” said Matt Barber, director of cultural affairs with Liberty Counsel.

Brian Burch, president of the Catholic group Fidelis Political Action noted that “in each case, from Massachusetts to California to now Connecticut, gay marriage has not been chosen by referendum or by a legislative vote. In each circumstance, gay marriage has been imposed by judicial fiat.”

But state Sen. Andrew McDonald, a Democrat and a longtime supporter of gay marriage, said the state legislature had already been on an “unstoppable march to achieve marriage equality.”

He noted that the legislature’s unified Judiciary Committee, of which he is co-chairman, passed a gay marriage bill last year, although it did not come to a vote in the full legislature and the governor threatened a veto.

“I’m certain that we would have passed it in this coming session anyway,” Mr. McDonald said.

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