HARTFORD, Conn. (BP)–Connecticut became the third state in the nation to legalize “gay marriage” Oct. 10 when its Supreme Court issued a much-anticipated ruling declaring that homosexual couples are guaranteed the right to “marry” under the state constitution.
The 4-3 decision follows a similar one by the California Supreme Court in May and a landmark ruling by the Massachusetts high court in 2003. All three rulings involved one-vote margins.
The Connecticut court overruled a lower court decision that had upheld the state’s marriage laws.
Conservatives in Connecticut have few options, although their best one will appear on the Nov. 4 ballot, when voters will be asked whether a constitutional convention should be called. The state constitution requires the question to appear on the ballot every 20 years.
“Connecticut voters will have one opportunity on Nov. 4 to reassert their right to self government. We must vote yes,” Peter Wolfgang, executive director of the Family Institute of Connecticut, was quoted as saying in the Hartford Courant.
But that may be the only option. Unlike California — which will vote a marriage amendment Nov. 4 — Connecticut does not have a law allowing voters to gather signatures to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot. Any amendment must be initiated by the left-leaning legislature, which has been cold to the idea.
The majority ruling covered 85 pages and was handed down more than a year after justices heard the case in May 2007.
“We recognize, as the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court did … that ‘our decision marks a change in the history of our marriage law,'” Justice Richard N. Palmer wrote for the court. “… Even though the right to marry is not enumerated in our constitution, it long has been deemed a basic civil right. … [O]ur conventional understanding of marriage must yield to a more contemporary appreciation of the rights entitled to constitutional protection. 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.”
The lawsuit was filed in 2004 on behalf of eight homosexual couples by Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, the same organization that successfully sued to legalize “gay marriage” in Massachusetts. The next year, the Connecticut legislature passed and the governor signed into law a bill legalizing same-sex civil unions — which grant all the legal benefits of marriage — but the lawsuit nonetheless continued.
The majority opinion ruled that civil unions — viewed by some who support them as common ground — are themselves discriminatory.
In a dissent, Justice Peter T. Zarella asserted that the majority opinion failed to address the real purpose behind the state’s marriage laws — procreation.
“[The majority opinion] is based primarily on the majority’s unsupported assumptions that the essence of marriage is a loving, committed relationship between two adults and that the sole reason that marriage has been limited to one man and one woman is society’s moral disapproval of or irrational animus toward gay persons,” Zarella wrote. “Indeed, the majority fails, during the entire course of its (85) page opinion, even to identify, much less to discuss, the actual purpose of the marriage laws, even though this is the first, critical step in any equal protection analysis.
“I conclude, to the contrary, that, because the long-standing, fundamental purpose of our marriage laws is to privilege and regulate procreative conduct, those laws do not classify on the basis of sexual orientation and that persons who wish to enter into a same sex marriage are not similarly situated to persons who wish to enter into a traditional marriage. The ancient definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman has its basis in biology, not bigotry. If the state no longer has an interest in the regulation of procreation, then that is a decision for the legislature or the people of the state and not this court.”
Alliance Defense Fund attorney Brian Raum, whose organization filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of the Family Research Council, criticized the ruling.
“Judges and politicians should never impose a system that knowingly deprives a child of a mom and a dad,” he said in a statement. “We believe that Americans are growing weary of this form of judicial activism. This decision demonstrates — as did the recent decision from the California Supreme Court — the dire need for states to enact constitutional amendments to protect marriage from ongoing judicial attack. … We ask, which parent doesn’t matter: a mom or a dad?”
In hindsight, the ruling may have hinged on a series of recusals. Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers recused herself from the case before it was even heard because her husband worked for a legal firm that sided with “gay marriage” supporters. She was replaced by former Chief Justice William J. Sullivan, who was described in some circles as a “devout Catholic” who had authored a rather pro-life opinion once. He may have sided with conservatives, but he, too, recused himself from the case before it was heard, and he was replaced by Appellate Judge Lubbie Harper Jr., who in the end sided with “gay marriage” supporters, providing the critical fourth vote.
California and Connecticut aren’t the only states embroiled in a debate over “gay marriage.” The Iowa Supreme Court will hear arguments in a “gay marriage” case Dec. 9.
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press. For updates on how conservatives in Connecticut are mobilizing against the ruling, visit www.ctfamily.org and www.ctfamily.org/blog.