After four years of legal wrangling in the state court system, the Connecticut Supreme Court on Friday struck down a ban on gay and lesbian marriage, thereby allowing full-fledged marriage for same-sex couples. The court ruled 4-3 that a ban on gay marriage constituted “cognizable harm” and infringed on a “fundamental right” of same-sex couples.
The decision marks the first time that a court rejected civil unions as an alternative to granting gay couples the right to marry. Connecticut has become the third state - after Massachusetts and California - to approve same-sex civil unions identical to marriages in virtually every respect except the name.
In the majority opinion, Supreme Court Justice Richard N. Palmer wrote that denying marriage to same-sex couples would create separate standards. He wrote: “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 Supreme Court ruling was thrilling for the plaintiffs - eight same-sex couples who sued in 2004, challenging the lower court’s ruling that civil unions give same-sex couples the same rights and protections as marriage. They argued that their constitutional rights were denied when they were barred from getting marriage licenses.
After previous courts upheld the ban and lawmakers wrote specific language into a civil union measure defining marriage as between men and women, the highest court’s decision came as a surprise. Connecticut Governor, Jodi Rell, disagreed with the ruling but said she will uphold it, since any attempt to reverse the decision, either legislatively or by amending the state Constitution, would fail.
Rell said: “I continue to believe that marriage is the union of a man and a woman. I do not believe their voice reflects the majority of the people of Connecticut.”
Connecticut Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal, said that same-sex weddings are expected to begin in Connecticut in less than a month - the trial court order is expected October 28. Though out-of-staters will be eligible too, but a vast majority of other states would not recognize such unions.
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