CT Civil Unions Bill Advances Out of Committee

February 25, 2005 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Connecticut is one step closer to creating civil unions for gay and lesbian couples and may go a step beyond that.

The state legislature’s Joint Judiciary Committee approved a civil union bill Wednesday, prompting predictions from both backers and opponents that the full House and Senate will likewise approve the measure before the early-June end to the current lawmaking session, according to a Boston Globe report.

Not only is the state closer to sanctioning civil unions, but some Connecticut legislators want to go even beyond that, according to the Globe report. Another measure, proposing that same-sex marriages performed in other states and countries be recognized inConnecticut, is likely to be tacked onto the civil unions legislation, they said. If the broader bill were to pass, Connecticut would recognize the marriages of gay couples who were wed in Massachusetts, much of Canada, or other jurisdictions where such marriages are legal.

That broader measure before the Judiciary Committee reads, in part: ”Any marriage or substantially equivalent relationship between two persons celebrated in another state, territory or possession of the United States or another country and in conformity with the law of such other jurisdiction shall be valid and recognized in this state.”

Connecticut   would be the first state to act on gay unions without prompting by the courts. In 2000, Vermont became the first in the nation to allow civil unions, after a ruling by the Vermont Supreme Court, while a Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling legalized gay marriage in the Bay State last year (See  Massachusetts Court Says Gays Entitled to Marry  ).

Advocates for full marriage rights for gays and lesbians were disappointed that the General Assembly inConnecticut went only as far as advancing civil unions on Wednesday night. Marriage provides same-sex couples with many more rights and benefits than civil unions, they argued.

”We just think civil unions don’t go far enough,” Anne Stanback, president of Love Makes a Family, the Connecticut coalition pushing for same-sex marriage, told the Globe. ”We don’t need to get to marriage by way of civil unions. If we could vote for full equality and fairness now, why should we wait? I thinkConnecticut is ready for marriage. “

Meanwhile, those on the other side have vowed to fight the civil unions measure. ”The language in the bill is the same as same-sex marriage,” said Deacon David Reynolds, legislative liaison for the Connecticut Catholic Conference. ”The benefits given to same sex couples are exactly the same as the benefits from marriage. It looks like the Legislature was afraid to use the term marriage in our state right now, so they opted for civil unions instead. We’re going to talk to elected officials and the governor’s office and just educate people about what this really means. It’s not going to stop at civil unions.”

Connecticut  lawmakers are moving against the political mood in some other states. The start of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts last year helped trigger a backlash that led 11 states to approve gay marriage bans last fall. If Connecticut enacts civil unions and endorses out-of-state marriages, it would create two types of legal recognition for gay and lesbian couples in the state, making likely legal challenges to extend marriage rights to all residents.