- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 6, 2002

Glen Rosengarten and Peter Downes traveled to Vermont on New Year's Eve 2000 to become one of many homosexual couples celebrating their civil union.
Their 15-year relationship soon soured, though, and Mr. Rosengarten went to court six months later to end his civil union.
"I was concerned for my heirs, for my three children and I want to get some kind of closure," he explained from his home in Greenwich, Conn.
But breaking up has been hard to do for this couple, one of 3,577 from outside Vermont who have obtained civil unions in the state, and it could have huge implications for others around the nation who go to local courts to dissolve their relationships.
The Rosengarten case is just the beginning of the legal wrangling, said Jan LaRue, chief counsel of Concerned Women for America.
States won't enact laws recognizing same-sex "marriage," she said, "so the plan of gay rights activists is to challenge marriage laws in every state by using these civil unions."
David Buckel, senior staff attorney with Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, sees the Rosengarten case as the latest example of why it's wrong for states to discriminate against legal same-sex unions.
"It just lays bare how harmful it is to block access to marriage" for same-sex couples, Mr. Buckel said.
When the barriers to same-sex "marriage" drop, "all families will be better off," he added, noting that right-to-marry legal battles already are under way in Massachusetts and New Jersey.
Since civil unions became legal in Vermont on July 1, 2000, the state has issued licenses to 4,270 homosexual couples, said Bill Apao, director of public health statistics. The ratio of female couples to male couples is about 2-to-1.
The licenses provide homosexual couples with the same legal rights and responsibilities as married couples but only in Vermont.
So far, six civil unions have been dissolved, all in Vermont, Mr. Apao said.
It's a "very simple process," Arthur Tremblay, one of the first male civil union "divorcees," told Out in the Mountains, a homosexual monthly.
Mr. Tremblay said in his case, his partner decided after six months that the relationship was over and paid $125 to start the legal dissolution. Over Mr. Tremblay's objections, a family court judge granted the split in April after the two men had lived apart for six months.
Mr. Rosengarten hasn't asked a Vermont court to end his civil union because he lives in Connecticut, Mr. Downes lives in New York and Vermont requires at least one partner to live in the state for a year before granting a dissolution.
Mr. Rosengarten turned instead to a Connecticut court, asking it to end his civil union as a "family relations" matter.
The trial court last year rejected his plea on the grounds it didn't have jurisdiction over civil unions.
Mr. Rosengarten appealed the decision to the Connecticut Appellate Court, but last month, the court upheld the lower court's decision for the same reasons.
Mr. Rosengarten now plans to take his case to the Connecticut Supreme Court with the help of attorney Gary I. Cohen and Hartford, Conn., law firm Horton, Shields & Cormier, which is known for its expertise with the state's high court.
It's "reasonable" to think that the lawsuit could have national implications, said Mr. Cohen, whose office is in Greenwich, Conn. Family courts have leeway to consider unusual family matters, he said, "and I think the appellate court got it wrong" when it said the courts don't have jurisdiction over a civil union.
Said Mr. Rosengarten: "To my way of thinking, my civil rights are being violated. I'm not asking for anything unusual here. I just want to be protected, like I was when I was divorced from my wife."
Mr. Buckel of Lambda said his group has had only a few calls on how to dissolve a civil union.
Still, the Rosengarten case is important, he said, because it "signals a trend that's going to be hitting state after state, as courts struggle with this concept of civil unions and the second-class citizenship it brings."
Civil unions are an alien concept to courts, but same-sex couples still need equal access to legal protections if relationships break up, especially when children are involved, Mr. Buckel said.
Moving to Vermont for a year isn't the answer, he added. Married couples are not similarly encumbered, and same-sex couples have the same reasons not to want to uproot themselves from jobs, family and friends "just to dissolve a civil union."
The significance of the Rosengarten case is that it is the second time a state has refused to recognize a civil union, said Mathew D. Staver, president and general counsel of Liberty Counsel in Orlando, Fla.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide