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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
April 22, 2005

Connecticut is set to be the second state with civil unions

Hartford, Conn.--With a vote expected as early as April 20, Connecticut stands poised to become the second state with civil unions.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell indicated that she would almost certainly sign a civil union bill that spelled out that it was not intended to allow full same-sex marriage, and the state�s House of Representatives amended their bill to comply shortly before they passed it on April 13.

The amendment defines marriage as being between one man and one woman.

The bill, already passed by the state Senate, is now back in that chamber to approve the change.

It is not known what effect a civil union law would have on a marriage suit currently working its way through state courts. Seven gay and lesbian couples filed suit last August, saying that barring same-sex couples from full marriage violates the state constitution�s equal protection guarantee.

�Why have two separate lines when you have one citizenry?� asked Mary Bonauto of Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, the group that filed the suit.

GLAD was also the moving force behind the lawsuit that resulted in same-sex marriage being legalized in Massachusetts last year.

Bonauto was disappointed by the �man and woman� amendment.

"They're giving with one hand and taking with the other," she said. "In the end, they have completely accepted and put into law the second-class status of gay and lesbian families in Connecticut. That is a very bitter pill to swallow."

�It does seem to underscore this separate quality of gay couples,� said Jennifer Brown, a same-sex marriage supporter who is the director of the Center for Dispute Resolution at the Quinnipiac University School of Law. �In my opinion, frankly I think civil union already does that to some extent. There is no need to underscore that by again defining marriage.�

The only other state to pass a civil union law was Vermont in 2000, which was ordered to do so by the Vermont Supreme Court.

California�s expanded domestic partner law, which took effect in January, is very close to civil unions in that it grants almost all of the state rights and responsibilities of marriage, but none of the federal ones. Maine, New Jersey and Hawaii also have partner laws granting some couples� rights, and a Maryland one is awaiting the governor�s signature.

 

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