Two years after approving civil unions, some Connecticut lawmakers are proposing that the state legalize full-fledged same-sex marriage:
The two Democratic leaders of the General Assembly’s judiciary committee say they intend to introduce a bill legalizing gay marriage, even though Gov. M. Jodi Rell has said she would veto such a measure.
“This is obviously not the most important issue [facing] the legislature,” said Michael Lawlor, D-East Haven and one of the co-chairmen of the judiciary committee. But, he added, “this is inevitable.”
Opponents vow to fight it. Brian Brown, executive director of the Family Institute of Connecticut and one the leading voices against same-sex marriage, called for an amendment to the state Constitution defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Acknowledging that winning legislative approval of such a measure was highly unlikely, he urged a non-binding referendum on the matter.
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Two years ago, the legislature made history by permitting same-sex couples to enter into civil unions. While granting same-sex couples nearly all of the rights and responsibilities available to married couples, civil unions are not recognized by most other states or the federal government. Many gay rights activists view civil unions as an acceptable compromise and say they have helped many couples. But they also view the law as inherently unfair and have failed a lawsuit seeking full-fledged marriage. Senate GOP leader Louis DeLuca of Woodbury rejected the claim that marriage is a civil right. “Isn’t that what civil unions were supposed to address?” he asked during the Family Institute press conference. “Now they want that name as well. As someone whose been married 53 years, I resent it.” But Becca Lazarus, a 12-year-old who lives in Windsor with her two dads, doesn’t see it that way. She said her friends don’t understand why her parents can’t marry. “They don’t understand what a civil union is,” Lazarus said during the Love Makes a Family press conference. “but everyone knows what marriage is.”
Completely leaving aside the matter of whether same-sex couples should be able to marry*, I wonder if it’s wise for marriage-rights advocates to move this quickly. While Connecticut residents might be happy and comfortable with going in just two years from civil unions to marriage, it strikes me as potentially counterproductive for gay rights advocates elsewhere. I’m assuming (not so much assuming as being unable and too lazy to locate the exact numbers) you have a higher number of Americans who support civil unions than gay marriage and I wonder if what’s happening in Connecticut — not even happened, mind you, but simply that some lawmakers are proposing it — makes or might make that margin uneasy about even plain old civil unions.
Add to that is the geographic proximity of the states leading the charge for gay rights — Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey — and I also wonder if that middle ground of people is freaking out that there might be some domino theory of gay marriage going on.
I don’t think it’s the worst thing in the world to see how civil unions work in practice before moving on to something more contentious like full marriage on par with what hets get. If not for those who were initially unsympathetic towards providing legal protections to gay couples then for the people working hard in other places to get civil union laws passed.
*And although I resent that I have to say this because it should be totally unrelated to the matter at hand, I would describe myself as pretty strongly pro-gay marriage.