Written by Gregg Brekke
The Connecticut Supreme Court decided on Oct. 10, 2008, to uphold equal marriage rights for same-sex couples. The case of Kerrigan & Mock et al v. the Connecticut Department of Public Health contended that homosexual couples have been denied rights afforded to heterosexuals in marriage.
"We are overjoyed that Connecticut's highest court has fulfilled the hopes and dreams of so many by ruling that same-sex couples are free to marry," said Anne Stanback, executive director of the Connecticut based Love Makes a Family and member of Immanuel Congregational UCC in Hartford, Conn.
The Connecticut Supreme Court overturned a lower court's judgment by favoring with the plaintiffs in their 85-page ruling. Key sections of the decision reflect the need to protect individuals from discrimination based on sexual orientation.
The Connecticut Supreme Court has referred the application of their ruling to a lower court. A directive instructing municipalities to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples is expected on or shortly after October 28.
Connecticut recognized same-sex civil unions as a legal counterpart to marriage in 2005. Yet advocates of marriage equality argued that because the status of marriage had been withheld it creating social and legal opportunities for discrimination.
Stanback commended the court's decision in its fuller recognition of same-sex rights. "This historic ruling will provide additional security and respect to the thousands of loving, committed same-sex couples and their children living in our state."
Civil Unions, as recognized by the 2005 ruling, are still allowed in addition to full marriage rights. The final footnote of the decision states, "We note that this case only addresses the state's prohibition against same-sex marriage, a ban that we conclude violates the state constitution. Our holding does not affect the recognition of civil unions in this state."
UCC Connecticut Conference Minister, the Rev. Davida Foy Crabtree, recalled nine separate measures the Conference has passed since 1976 that have sought equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) constituents, including a 2004 resolution calling denial of equal marriage rights for same-sex couples "an unwarranted act of exclusion."
Crabtree sees the result as a great victory for civil rights in Connecticut, "especially for the thousands of gay and lesbian citizens who will know that they are fully included in our common life as a state from this day forward."
Keenly aware that healing must take place with those who oppose same-sex marriage, Crabtree noted, "I know that there will be some who will be troubled by this decision and my heart goes out to them as well. I believe that over time, most will be reconciled to this very just decision by our Supreme Court, but that meanwhile we have work to do in reconciliation and understanding."
"The courts have rightly adjusted the law so that it no longer unjustly discriminates against same gender loving citizens," said the Rev. Mike Schuenemeyer, the UCC's Wider Church Ministries executive for health and wholeness advocacy. "I'm proud of the work of the UCC's General Synod and their participation in the religious Amici supporting the freedom to marry in this case. This decision makes even more significant the efforts to preserve marriage equality in California by defeating Proposition 8."
The UCC's 2005 General Synod affirmed its commitment to same-sex marriage equality by adopting the resolution "In Support of Equal Marriage Rights for All."