Kerrigan and Mock v. Connecticut Department of Public Health
In October 2008, Connecticut’s Supreme Court scraped together a four-to-three majority decision ruling that marriage between same-sex couples is a constitutional right in the case of Kerrigan and Mock v. Connecticut Dept. of Public Health, filed by GLAD. The final decision was that the state’s law allowing heterosexual couples to marry and intention for civil unions to guarantee all the same rights to homosexual couples, was against the notion of equal protection under the law. Perhaps most importantly, this decision cannot be appealed.
Justice Richard Palmer, one of the four in support of legalizing gay marriage, recalled past, legal discrimination that rested upon a supposedly “separate but equal” system and called for a more modern understanding of marriage and rights granted under constitutional protection.
This court case was unique for a number of reasons. Not only did Connecticut become the third state to legalize gay marriage, it was also the first state high court decision to claim that civil union laws violated the state’s equal protection clause.
Additionally, despite the winning majority, stark, opposing opinions were quite evident in this case. Former Governor M. Jodi Rell was not at all pleased with the ruling but agreed to uphold it despite feeling that it did not represent the majority of the state. She also felt that any attempt to change this decision would be quite unsuccessful.
In 2005, once the case was underway, the state established civil unions for gay partners but explicitly defined marriage as between one woman and one man. The arguments in question, at the time, were whether civil unions granted the same rights as marriage and, whether “same-sex couples should be treated as what the court called a ‘suspect class’ or ‘quasi-suspect class’” like other minority groups that have a long history of being discriminated against; these groups are thus deserving of particular “scrutiny and protection by the state in the promulgation of its laws.” The final decision did finally address this issue, and declared that, because of said historical discrimination based on sexual orientation; these types of cases require a greater level of attention and thorough examination.
Justice Palmer clarified the argument over civil unions and marriage best by saying “although marriage and civil unions do embody the same legal rights under our law, they are by no means equal…the former is an institution of transcendent historical, cultural and social significance, whereas the latter is not.”
A different Justice argued that there was no real evidence making civil unions inferior to marriage; another claimed that marriage was a matter of biology and procreation and therefore, was not even relevant to same-sex couples. Although these opinions were overruled, they are representative of how a significant portion of Connecticut’s lawmakers feel about the issue. Arguably, these types of sentiments may affect how same-sex couples are perceived and treated in the public and legal eye.
Legal Updates and Services
After September 30, 2010 civil unions are no longer allowed in Connecticut and existing civil unions between same-sex couples were converted to marriages on October 1st, 2010. As of 2008 same-sex marriages granted in Massachusetts and California (during the time in which it was legal) are recognized by the state but this may have changed since other states have since legalized gay marriage.
Individuals who are authorized to perform marriages are not bound by law to do so for gay couples except public officials. This means that clergy are not required to perform same-sex marriages if it is against their beliefs. Furthermore, religious organizations do not have to make their facilities available if it is against their doctrine but, non-secular businesses that serve the public (i.e. photographers, hotels, etc.) are bound by Connecticut’s non-discrimination laws to provide their services to same-sex couples if they are able.
The federal government will not recognize any same-sex marriages performed in the state of Connecticut; these couples will be denied many rights and privileges. Moreover, federal law interacts with Connecticut laws in ways that are still unclear since same-sex marriage is a continuously evolving legal field. GLAD and Lambda Legal provide lots of information, support and legal advice regarding same-sex marriage.
- Can same-sex couples marry in Connecticut? Yes.
- Can same-sex couples enter into civil unions? No.
- Will the federal government recognize same-sex marriages granted in Connecticut? No.