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Connecticut House Votes To Allow Gay Unions:
Governor Expected To Sign Legislation

By Jonathan Finer

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 woman.

"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
those states.

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 gay rights.

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," he said.

The most heated debate Wednesday centered on the amendment defining marriage.

"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 discriminatory amendments."

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 law.

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 entirely different
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 with who.

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?


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