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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
October 7, 2005

Couples tie the knot as civil union law takes effect

Hartford, Conn.--The state�s civil union law took effect on October 1, with 26 couples seeking licenses in Hartford�s city hall that day.

It was not yet known how many couples sought civil union licenses around the state, but the capital alone brought in more people seeking civil unions than people demonstrating against them.

A rally outside the state capitol building drew about 50 people demanding that the law be revoked.

Another rally opposing the law urged the passage of full same-sex marriage.

�If the state of Connecticut would recognize a Britney Spears weekend Las Vegas marriage, surely they can recognize the marriage of couples who have been together ten, twenty, or thirty years,� said Frank O�Gorman, director of People of Faith for Gay Civil Rights.

At the heart of the day, however, was the fact that Connecticut became the first state to extend such wide-sweeping benefits and recognition to same-sex couples without being ordered to do so by a court decision.

"The hardest thing is, what do you call yourself, �civilized?� " said Lidia Agramonte, a social worker from New Britain. "There are no words for it yet."

Agramonte and her partner Maria Gomez were joined in civil union on October 1.

"This is a historic day. We're beyond ecstatic," said Randy Sharp of Plainville, who obtained a license with his partner, Jeff Blanchette.

They planned an afternoon ceremony followed by a reception for about 50 people at a friend's house.

Civil unions give couples all of the state rights and responsibilities of marriage, but they do not extend beyond a state�s boundaries and have no federal or international recognition.

Six other states also recognize lesbian and gay couples. Massachusetts has allowed full same-sex marriage for over a year, and Vermont pioneered civil unions in 2000. Both of these arose from decisions by the state�s highest courts.

California has a sweeping set of domestic partner laws that give most of the state benefits of marriage. These were passed piecemeal through the legislature over the past several years.

Maine, New Jersey and Hawaii also have domestic partner laws with varying benefits.

California lawmakers passed a full same-sex marriage bill in September, but it was vetoed last week by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. He said that he believed it violated a 2002 voter-approved law barring recognition of same-sex marriage. The marriage bill�s backers, however, say that measure only applies to recognition of same-sex marriages performed in other states.

A lawsuit is currently pending in Connecticut courts in which seven same-sex couples sued the state for refusing to issue them marriage licenses. Similar suits are pending in California, New York, New Jersey and Washington, where the state�s highest court is expected to rule any day.

�Politicians tend to be afraid of this issue because they think it�s political suicide, and I think what happened in Connecticut completely and totally disproved that,� said Rep. Michael Lawlor, one of the new law�s sponsors.

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