Connecticut House Votes To Allow Gay Unions
Governor Expected To Sign Legislation
By Jonathan Finer
The Washington Post
Thursday, April 14, 2005
HARTFORD, Conn., April 13 -- Connecticut's House of
Representatives passed legislation Wednesday that would make the
state the second to establish civil unions for same-sex couples,
and the first to do so without being directed by a court.
The state Senate overwhelmingly approved a civil-unions bill
last week, and lawmakers said they expect to endorse the House
version as early as next week. Gov. M. Jodi Rell (R) said
Wednesday that she will sign it.
The House also passed an amendment -- favored by Rell and
designed to make the bill more palatable to more conservative
members -- that defines marriage as a union of one man and one
"It's an unbelievable victory," said Rep. Michael P. Lawlor (D),
one of the bill's main supporters. "The idea that both houses
endorsed this concept of civil unions is an incredible step."
Connecticut's push toward civil unions cuts against a national
backlash that has followed the legalization of such
relationships in Vermont in 2000 and of same-sex marriage in
Massachusetts last year. Unlike Connecticut, court rulings
prompted the changes in
In November, 11 states outlawed same-sex marriage through ballot
initiatives, and at least 18 have passed "defense of marriage"
amendments to their constitutions, defining marriage as the
union of one man and one woman.
The Connecticut House bill passed 85 to 63 after six hours of
debate that ended just after 8 p.m.
It would provide same-sex couples who form civil unions with
state and municipal tax benefits now granted only to married
couples, as well as hospital visitation rights and a host of
other benefits, including family-leave privileges.
In the end, the most ardent advocates on both sides of the issue
said they were disappointed.
"It's bittersweet, certainly, because of the amendment [defining
marriage]. It's also surprising, because even last night we
thought we had the votes to stop it," said Ann Stanback,
president of the group Love Makes a Family, which lobbies for
Marie T. Hilliard, executive director of the Connecticut
Catholic Conference, which helped
coordinate opposition to the bill, said that while she welcomes
the amendment, she considers the bill "a defeat that undermines
marriage for all of society."
Recent polls have shown that Connecticut residents favor
allowing civil unions but not marriage for same-sex couples. But
bill opponents argued that the measure is equivalent to
extending marriage rights.
"I think we're just playing with words," said Rep. Alfred
Adinolfi (R). "This bill is the same as same-sex marriage, it's
just called civil unions."
Rell, who took office last year after of a corruption scandal
that led to the imprisonment of her predecessor, John G. Rowland
(R), had earlier said she was comfortable with "the concept" of
civil unions but wanted to see the final version of the bill.
On Tuesday, she asked Attorney General Richard Blumenthal (D) to
interpret whether the civil-unions bill would legalize same-sex
marriage. After he told her in a letter that it would not, Rell
encouraged lawmakers to back the amendment defining marriage.
"The House bill sends an unambiguous message about our
commitment to fight discrimination, promote civil rights and
preserve the traditional institution of
marriage," she said in a statement Wednesday evening. "It
is now up to the Senate to act. If they pass the bill in
accordance with the House, I will sign it."
Sen. Andrew J. McDonald (D), one of the bill's strongest
backers, said he expects it to be approved quickly. "We are
going to provide landmark opportunities to same-sex couples, and
nothing that was done today is going to diminish that victory,"
The most heated debate Wednesday centered on the amendment
"It is not extremist politics to state that marriage is a
relationship between a man and a woman," said Rep. Robert M.
Ward (R). "It is, in fact, a position shared by the overwhelming
majority of citizens in our state."
In a statement, Joe Solmonese, president of the national gay
advocacy group Human Rights Campaign, commended the House for
passing the bill but called for the final version to be "free of
Several Democrats said that the amendment was redundant because
the bill would not alter the common conception of marriage in
the state and that it would enshrine discrimination into state
Rep. Evelyn C. Mantilla (D), who said she is raising a child
with her female partner, asked her colleagues not to "further
write my second-class citizenship into our statutes." She voted
against the bill, she said, because the amendment passed.
Some responses so far:
Hoo-ray for Connecticut!
All right, so I'm not exactly 100% pleased about the rider
amendment defining marriage as ONE man and ONE woman - doesn't
do us polys any good directly - but what the hell? It a good
thing all the same. This is probably the best we can hope for at
this point in history. But as that one guy says, it may be
quibbling over semantics anyway. I mean, if gays can have the
same legal rights, civil protections and economic advantages,
conduct marriage ceremonies inside of churches of their
choice or in front justices of the peace or court houses, tell
other people they consider themselves married, call each other
husband and husband or wife and wife, etc, who cares what the
institution is technically called?
As a practical matter, I suspect that this is the way it will
ultimately go down in most of the rest of the country - courts &
legislatures etc will mostly not quite be able to stomach same
sex marriage entirely, but still be forced to admit that equal
protection and such demands that gays be given access to some
positive equivalent of marriage by some different name. The game
is to say, "OK, no literal gay marriage, but if not, then a very
strong Civil Union law that amounts to the same thing.' And
generally speaking, the public and courts will
begrudgingly go along with that compromise, and still be able to
feel like they have won some significant moral and symbolic
victory by perseving the sanctity and
sacredness of holy traditional marriage.
Maybe the trick now is to forgot about trying to legalize plural
marriage, and work on legalizing plural CIVIL UNIONS. Such a
project might encounter far less resistance. After all, if the
conservatives want to insist that marriage and civil unions are
animals- marriage being holy and instituted by God herself and
Civil Unions being a mere human-made secular institution created
by goverment fiat, perhaps they won't see 2+ civil unions as
crapping up their own game in the way poly "marriages" would?
Also, who knows about this "Love Makes a Family" organization?
Sounds like someone we could work with, yeah? Just a thought.
Here! Here !
I second the motion.
However, instead of pushing for plural civil unions, I favor an
approach of pushing for legalization of any kind of family group
that considers itself a family - regardless whether the number
of adults and children in the unit, marital status, sexual
orientation or blood
kinship of the individuals. This skirts the issue of whether the
people in the family unit are sexually involved with each other
or not. Three borthers raising a kid is a family. Three lesbians
raising the adopted child of one of them is a family. Two gay
males is a family if they say they are. A bi-man, his female
lover and his male lover are a family if they say they are. Five
men and three women are a family if they say they are -
regardless of whether they all have sex with each other, all are
totally platonic with each other or some combination thereof.
Give any such unit that sincerely files an application the same
official status, legal protections, insurance rights, and tax
benefits of a regular marriage - regardless of whose having sex
Probably could find a very broad base of support for such a
program, which would be a boon to poly everywhere without even
directly making polyamory the issue.
What do people think of that?