Connecticut Supreme Court Okays Same-Sex Marriage
October 10th, 2008
The Connecticut Supreme Court has ruled 4-3 that same sex couples are entitled to marriage (PDF: 591 KB/84 pages).
PALMER, J. The issue presented by this case is whether the state statutory prohibition against same sex marriage violates the constitution of Connecticut. The plaintiffs, eight same sex couples, commenced this action, claiming that the state statutory prohibition against same sex marriage violates their rights to substantive due process and equal protection under the state constitution. The trial court rendered summary judgment in favor of the defendant state and local officials upon determining that, because this state’s statutes afford same sex couples the right to enter into a civil union, which affords them the same legal rights as marriage, the plaintiffs had not established a constitutionally cognizable harm. We conclude that, in light of the history of pernicious discrimination faced by gay men and lesbians,1 and because the institution of marriage carries with it a status and significance that the newly created classification of civil unions does not embody, the segregation of heterosexual and homosexual couples into separate institutions constitutes a cognizable harm. We also conclude that (1) our state scheme discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation, (2) for the same reasons that classifications predicated on gender are considered quasi-suspect for purposes of the equal protection provisions of the United States constitution, sexual orientation constitutes a quasi-suspect classification for purposes of the equal protection provisions of the state constitution, and, therefore, our statutes discriminating against gay persons are subject to heightened or intermediate judicial scrutiny, and (3) the state has failed to provide sufficient justification for excluding same sex couples from the institution of marriage. In light of our determination that the state’s disparate treatment of same sex couples is constitutionally deficient under an intermediate level of scrutiny, we do not reach the plaintiffs’ claims implicating a stricter standard of review, namely, that sexual orientation is a suspect classification, and that the state’s bar against same sex marriage infringes on a fundamental right in violation of due process and discriminates on the basis of sex in violation of equal protection. In accordance with our conclusion that the statutory scheme impermissibly discriminates against gay persons on account of their sexual orientation, we reverse the trial court’s judgment and remand the case with direction to grant the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment.
On page 66 of the majority opinion:
Interpreting our state constitutional provisions in accordance with firmly established equal protection principles leads inevitably to the conclusion that 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 guarantee of equal protection under the law, and our obligation to uphold that command, forbids us from doing so. In accordance with these state constitutional requirements, same sex couples cannot be denied the freedom to marry
The judgment is reversed and the case is remanded with direction to grant the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment and application for injunctive relief.
In this opinion NORCOTT, KATZ and HARPER, Js., concurred.”
UPDATE:Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell (R) has issued a statement:
I disagree with today’s State Supreme Court ruling but as governor, I will uphold it. I continue to believe that marriage is the union of a man and a woman.
I also believe that the historic civil union law that I proudly signed in 2005 is equitable and just. We were the first state to enact such a law through legislative action and not a court mandate.
The Supreme Court has spoken. I do not believe their voice reflects the majority of the people of Connecticut. However, I am also firmly convinced that attempts to reverse this decision – either legislatively or by amending the state Constitution – will not meet with success. I will therefore abide by the ruling.
UPDATE: Because this is a ruling that touches on state law and the state constitution, there is no recourse for appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Connecticut Constitution does not have an initiative process for placing a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot. The Constitution however does mandate a question to be placed on the ballot every twenty years asking voters if they wish to call a constitutional convention. That question is now on the ballot this year. Opponents say they hope to use that ballot question to force a constitutional convention to change the constitution to allow for an citizen’s initiative process.
It is unclear right now what steps need to be made either in the courts, the legislature, or the governor’s office to allow same-sex marriages to become available.