Tags: Connecticut | OKs | Same-Sex | Civil | Unions

Connecticut OKs Same-Sex Civil Unions

Wednesday, 20 April 2005 12:00 AM

Last week, the House of Representatives amended the bill at the governor's urging to define marriage under Connecticut law as existing between one man and one woman.

The Senate gave final legislative approval to the amended bill Wednesday afternoon on a 26-8 vote.

"I have said all along that I believe in no discrimination of any kind and I think that this bill accomplishes that, while at the same time preserving the traditional language that a marriage is between a man and a woman," Rell said after signing the bill into law.

Opponents of civil unions had hoped to persuade Rell, a Republican, to veto the legislation. They believe civil unions are essentially gay marriage, with a different name.

The Family Institute of Connecticut planned a rally for Sunday in opposition to the bill. Brian Brown, the group's executive director, said they will still gather, but with a new focus.

"From now until 2006, our mission will be to let every person know in the state of Connecticut which lawmakers voted to redefine marriage, and which lawmakers voted to protect marriage," he said.

Love Makes a Family, a gay rights organization that wanted legislators pass a gay marriage bill, called civil unions an important step toward protecting the rights of same-sex couples. But Anne Stanback, the group's executive director, said the fight is not over.

"As important as the rights are, this is not yet equality," she said.

Stanback said Love Makes a Family would likely regroup and begin to talk to lawmakers about gay marriage, something she acknowledged will not likely be taken up next session.

The Senate which spent four hours debating an earlier version of the bill earlier this month, spent just an hour discussing the amended legislation.

Some said they were disappointed the House had changed the legislation to define marriage as being between one man and one woman.

"I feel that amendment belittles friends that I hold dear, who are of the same sex, who want to spend their lives together," said Sen. Edith Prague, D-Columbia. "I feel it is belittling to them and I'm sorry that amendment was placed in the House."

But Sen. David Cappiello, D-Danbury, who voted for civil unions earlier this month, said he felt even more comfortable voting for the bill because of the amendment. He said defining marriage highlights the religious and social significance of a marriage between a man and a woman.

In the end, none of the senators changed their votes. Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield, said the majority of his constituents oppose civil unions and gay marriage. He said some have also questioned why heterosexual couples cannot get a civil union.

"I think that the public is a little bit confused," he said.

Vermont has approved civil unions and neighboring Massachusetts has gay marriage, but those changes came about only after same-sex couples won court battles.

Last summer, seven same-sex filed a lawsuit in Connecticut after being denied marriage licenses. That case has not been resolved, but Connecticut legislators who back the civil unions bill claim they haven't been influenced by it. They said they acted to extend more rights to same-sex couples and their families.

As in past debates on civil unions, the Senate gallery was filled with opponents and proponents of the legislation Wednesday. It was Catholic Concerns Day and many visited the state Capitol wearing buttons that read "Catholics Care" and "Protect Marriage."

Mary Bowler and Diane Shepard of Westbrook watched the vote. The same-sex couple has been together 12 years and watched friends hold commitment ceremonies. But they held off.

"We wanted to wait for the real thing," Bowler said.

When the Senate vote was announced, Shepard excitedly gripped her partner's hand. The two later waited outside the Senate to personally thank McDonald for supporting the bill.

"I have a friend who is a lawyer, and she has said, everyone wants special rights," Bowler said. "I told her, I just want the same ones you have."

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Last week, the House of Representatives amended the bill at the governor's urging to define marriage under Connecticut law as existing between one man and one woman. The Senate gave final legislative approval to the amended bill Wednesday afternoon on a 26-8 vote. "I have...
Connecticut,OKs,Same-Sex,Civil,Unions
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2005-00-20
Wednesday, 20 April 2005 12:00 AM
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