CT High Court Approves Gay Marriage

October 10, 2008 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Connecticut became the third state to legalize same-sex marriage with a state Supreme Court ruling that gay couples have the constitutional right to wed.

The split four to three ruling released Friday follows a similar move in Massachusetts in 2004 (See Massachusetts Court Says Gays Entitled to Marry ) and a California Supreme Court ruling in May 2008 legalizing the nuptials by gay couples (See Golden State Court Allows Gay Marriages ). Golden State voters are scheduled to consider the gay marriage question in a November ballot initiative.  

Connecticut approved civil unions in 2005 (See Employers Not Prepared for CT Civil Union Law ).

Justice Richard N. Palmer, writing for the Connecticut high court majority, declared that a lower court judge was wrong in ruling that the plaintiff couples had not proven their claims of discrimination.

“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,” wrote Palmer “To decide otherwise would require us to apply one set of constitutional principles to gay persons and another to all others. The guarantee of equal protection under the law, and our obligation to uphold that command, forbids us from doing so. In accordance with these state constitutional requirements, same sex couples cannot be denied the freedom to marry.”

According to the ruling, the suit was filed in August 2004 by eight same-sex couples who had sought permission to wed but had been denied. A Connecticut state judge threw out the case. The couples filed a new action in 2006 against the state seeking permission for gay weddings.

In the trial court action, the plaintiffs maintained that, because marriage is a fundamental right, the state has to show that any curtailment has been narrowly tailored to carry out a compelling state interest. They claimed the state could not accomplish that task.

The plaintiffs also charged that the law violates a prohibition against sex discrimination because it precludes a woman from doing what a man may do   – marry a woman – and precludes a man from doing what a woman may do – marry a man.

The defendants contended that, in light of the universally understood definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman, the right that the plaintiffs were asserting, the right to marry ”any person of one’s choosing,” is not a fundamental right.

After Friday's decision was released, the Family Institute of Connecticut, a political action group that opposes gay marriage, called the ruling outrageous. "Even the legislature, as liberal as ours, decided that marriage is between a man and a woman," said executive director Peter Wolfgang, according to an Associated Press report. "This is about our right to govern ourselves. It is bigger than gay marriage."

Governor M. Jodi Rell said Friday that she disagreed with the ruling, but will not fight it.

"The Supreme Court has spoken," Rell said in a statement, according to the Associated Press. "I do not believe their voice reflects the majority of the people of Connecticut. However, I am also firmly convinced that attempts to reverse this decision — either legislatively or by amending the state Constitution — will not meet with success."

The Connecticut ruling is available  here