Connecticut Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Marriage Equality for Same-Sex Couples: Lambda Legal Celebrates

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"Another state has joined a growing list of governments in this country and around the world that recognize that same-sex couples are entitled to justice and equality under the law."
October 10, 2008

(Hartford, CT, Friday, October 10, 2008) — Lambda Legal applauds today's decision by the Connecticut Supreme Court awarding full access to marriage to the state's gay and lesbian residents, making Connecticut the third state in the nation to grant marriage equality to same-sex couples.


"We applaud the Connecticut Supreme Court for bringing an end to the inequality same-sex couples and their families currently endure and congratulate our colleagues at Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders and the plaintiffs in the case for their tremendous victory for equality," said Leslie Gabel-Brett, Director of Education and Public Affairs at Lambda Legal and a founding member of Connecticut-based Love Makes a Family.


In a 4-3 decision, the court stated: "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. To decide otherwise would require us to apply one set of constitutional principles to gay persons and another to all others."


"Today, another state has joined a growing list of governments in this country and around the world that recognize that same-sex couples are entitled to justice and equality under the law. Lambda Legal supported this case through a friend of the court brief which the court noted with approval in their decision," said David Buckel, Marriage Project Director at Lambda Legal. "Now lesbian and gay couples in Connecticut will join those in Massachusetts and California in being able to marry their loved one. We hope the high court in Iowa will follow the examples set by the courts in Massachusetts, California and Connecticut."


Though there are no residency requirements to marry in Connecticut, "there are only a handful of states where couples can feel okay about how their marriage will be treated when they get home," Buckel added.


In its decision the court further stated: "We agree with the following point made by the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc., in its amicus brief: 'Any married couple [reasonably] would feel that they had lost something precious and irreplaceable if the government were to tell them that they no longer were 'married' and instead were in a 'civil union.' The sense of being 'married' — what this conveys to a couple and their community, and the security of having others clearly understand the fact of their marriage and all it signifies — would be taken from them. These losses are part of what same sex couples are denied when government assigns them a 'civil union' status. If the tables were turned, very few heterosexuals would countenance being told that they could enter only civil unions and that marriage is reserved for lesbian and gay couples. Surely there is [a] constitutional injury when the majority imposes on the minority that which it would not accept for itself.'"


Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) filed suit in 2004 on behalf of eight Connecticut same-sex couples denied licenses to marry. The lower court ruled against the couples, and GLAD appealed the case to the state's high court. Meanwhile, in 2005, the state legislature passed the civil union law, which, while giving same-sex couples many of the rights and responsibilities of marriage, stopped short of awarding them marriage equality. 


Lambda Legal filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the plaintiffs, saying that by barring same-sex couples from marriage and forcing them into a different and inferior status under the civil unions law, the state was violating the equal protection guarantee of the Connecticut Constitution.


With this decision, Connecticut joins Massachusetts and California as the only states in the country to recognize the right of same-sex couples to marry. Lambda Legal has a similar case before the state supreme court in Iowa, (Varnum v. Brien), which is currently on appeal after the trial court ruled in August 2007 that the state constitution requires that same-sex couples be allowed to marry. Oral arguments are scheduled for Tuesday, December 9, 2008.


The case is Kerrigan v. State of Connecticut.


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Erin Baer 212-809-8585 ext.267; Email: ebaer@lambdalegal.org

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