October 10, 2008
(RNS) -- Connecticut became the third state to allow same-sex marriage after its Supreme Court ruled Friday (Oct. 10) that it is unconstitutional to deny the legal benefits of marriage to gay and lesbian couples.
The 4-3 decision outraged conservative groups, who are pushing hard for constitutional amendments on the November ballot that would outlaw gay marriage in California, Arizona and Florida.
"This decision demonstrates ... the dire need for states to enact constitutional amendments to protect marriage from ongoing judicial attack," said Brian Raum, senior legal counsel for the Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund.
The case, Kerrigan v. State of Connecticut, was filed in 2004 by eight same-sex couples who applied for marriage licenses and were denied. The state began offering civil unions to same-sex couples in 2005.
But Justice Richard N. Palmer, writing for the majority, said equal protection means "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."
The Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law estimates that there are about 9,500 same-sex couples in Connecticut, and projected that 3,000 of them will seek to marry within the next year.
Gov. M. Jodi Rell, a Republican, said she disagreed with the ruling, but signaled that she will not fight it because "attempts to reverse this decision -- either legislatively or by amending the state Constitution -- will not meet with success."
The Connecticut Catholic Conference said it would support a constitutional amendment to overturn the court's decision, saying the court had "taken it upon itself to make a determination that other courts throughout our nation have felt should be made through the political process."
The decision was praised by the state conference of the United Church of Christ, which in 2005 became the first major U.S. denomination to endorse civil marriage for same-sex couples.
"I greet this day with great joy in my heart, especially for the thousands of gay and lesbian citizens who will know that they are fully included in our common life as a state from this day forward," said the Rev. Davida Foy Crabtree, who heads the UCC's Connecticut Conference.
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