Full House, Senate still have to approve measure
HARTFORD, Conn. — A bill updating Connecticut law to conform with a court ruling allowing gay marriages is heading to the state Senate.
The legislature’s Judiciary Committee voted 30-10 Monday, March 30 to endorse the measure, which was spurred by last year’s state Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to wed in Connecticut.
The bill removes gender references in state marriage laws and transforms existing same-sex civil unions into legally recognized marriages as of October 2010.
It also strips language from a 1991 state anti-discrimination law that says Connecticut does not condone gay marriage and will not set quotas for hiring gay workers or encourage teaching in school about same-sex lifestyles.
Some lawmakers consider the language outdated and insulting.
"Put your group in there, put your political ideas in there, put your ethnic background in this language and see how you would like it. It is time to get rid of this language," said state Sen. Mary Ann Handley, D-Manchester.
However, removing those provisions worries gay marriage opponents, who worry the Supreme Court decision — handed down last October — will be exploited to liberalize other social policy such as school curricula.
They have vowed to push lawmakers to tighten the wording and to give more people and groups, including state justices of the peace, the legal right to refuse to participate in gay marriages.
A compromise provision added Monday lets churches and church-controlled facilities, such as parochial schools, deny use of their facilities for gay marriages if they oppose the practice on religious grounds. Individual clergy members also would have that right.
"I really believe we are in a key time as we consider how we balance the rights of both constituencies we are discussing here today — those who are gay, and those who have deep faith that doesn’t agree with same-sex marriage," said state Rep. Bruce Morris, D-Norwalk.
The bill now heads to the state Senate but would also need House approval before taking effect.
Only Connecticut and Massachusetts have legalized gay marriage, although the unions were legal in California for five months until a state referendum to ban gay marriage passed last fall.
Vermont, New Jersey, California, New Hampshire, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia have laws that either recognize civil unions or domestic partnerships that afford same-sex couples similar rights to marriage. Thirty states have gay marriage bans in their constitutions.