Connecticut Becomes Third U.S. State to Recognise Marriage Equality for Gay and Lesbian Couples

13 Oct 2008

From HRC


WASHINGTON - Today, the Connecticut Supreme Court reversed a lower court decision and ruled that same-sex couples enjoy the same right to marry as different-sex couples under the state constitution. The court ruled that it is a violation of the state constitution to deny gay and lesbian couples the right to marry, and that it is not enough to provide rights to gay and lesbian couples through a separate system of civil unions.

"This is a very proud day for Connecticut and a very proud day for every American who believes in the promise of equal rights for all," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. "The Connecticut Supreme Court recognized that gay and lesbian couples who form committed relationships and loving families deserve the same level of respect afforded to straight couples. The court did its job by making clear that the state constitution guarantees the same rights and protections for everyone. This decision strengthens Connecticut families. We congratulate and commend the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), Love Makes a Family, which worked closely with GLAD on this case, and, of course, the courageous plaintiff couples and their families who looked to the courts to vindicate their rights."

On August 24, 2004, GLAD, working closely with Love Makes a Family, filed the Kerrigan & Mock v. Connecticut Dept. of Public Health case in Connecticut state court on behalf of seven same-sex couples (an eighth couple later joined the case). The plaintiffs argued that denying same-sex couples the right to marry violates the state constitution's guarantees of equal protection of law and due process.

On July 12, 2006, the Connecticut Superior Court ruled in favor of the state, denying same-sex couples the right to marry under the state constitution, and relying heavily on the fact that Connecticut, since 2005, has permitted same-sex couples to enter into civil unions.

A growing number of states are providing relationship recognition to gay and lesbian couples. Connecticut joins Massachusetts and California as the third state to recognize civil marriage for gay and lesbian couples under state law. Four other states and Washington, D.C. provide same-sex couples with access to all the state level benefits and responsibilities of marriage, through either civil unions or domestic partnerships. Three other states provide gay and lesbian couples with at least some of the basic benefits and protections made available to married heterosexual couples. New York recognizes marriages by gay and lesbian couples validly entered into outside of New York. Gay and lesbian couples do not receive any federal rights and benefits.

Key results from the ruling:
Gay and lesbian couples in Connecticut will now be able to obtain a civil marriage license and receive the same respect and protections afforded to all married couples.
Churches and other religious institutions will not have to recognize or perform ceremonies for these civil marriages. This ruling is not about religion; it's about the civil responsibilities and protections afforded through a government-issued civil marriage license.

The court's decision does not entitle gay and lesbian couples in Connecticut to receive the federal rights and benefits extended to married couples. The so-called federal Defense of Marriage Act discriminates against gay and lesbian married couples by denying them over 1,000 federal rights and benefits, including social security benefits, the ability to file a joint federal tax return, and the right to petition for a spouse to immigrate.

Other states may legally recognize the civil marriages of same-sex couples performed in Connecticut in the same way they recognize out-of-state marriages by different-sex couples.

The court's decision today does not change the law in any other state, or federal law. We will continue to fight for marriage equality across the country.

The Human Rights Campaign signed onto an amicus or "friend of the court" brief in the Kerrigan case to support and further explain the case for extending civil marriage rights to same-sex couples under the state constitution. A number of other civil rights organizations, religious groups, child welfare experts, law professors, family and legal historians and others also either signed or filed briefs of their own in favor of extending civil marriage laws to same-sex couples.

The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against GLBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.