Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Rell: Civil Unions OK

Way Clear for Historic Bill

In a surprising move, Gov. Rell endorsed the civil unions bill recently approved by the judiciary committee:

Gov. M. Jodi Rell endorsed the concept of civil unions for same-sex couples Tuesday, adding to the momentum building behind the gay-rights measure.

"I don't believe in discrimination of any sort, and I want people to have equal rights and equal opportunities," Rell said. (Pazniokas)

Previously, Rell had said she would have to see a civil unions bill before considering whether to sign it or not. So, we assume that she's seen the bill and approved of it?

The governor said she had not evaluated the civil-unions bill approved last week by the judiciary committee, but for the first time she offered unqualified support for the concept. (Pazniokas)

Interesting. What changed her thinking? Or, indeed, has her thinking been changed at all? Rell did support a 1991 measure aimed at ending discriminatory practices against homosexuals. Her earlier hemming and hawing on the subject may just have been her cautious nature.

Then again, it may be part of a larger societal shift:

The legislature's influential judiciary committee passed the [civil unions] bill last week on a 25-13 vote. The same panel killed a similar measure in 2003.

"The big picture is that a lot of people, the governor included, are thinking about this and changing the way they view it," said Rep. Michael P. Lawlor, D-East Haven, the judiciary co-chairman. (Pazniokas)

To what should we attribute this change of opinion? The presence of full and legal gay marriage in a neighboring state matters a great deal, especially as it becomes part of the normal fabric of life there. Also, this is now an issue that people are discussing rationally instead of emotionally. When the knee-jerk reaction of "They want to do WHAT?" fades away and the subject is approached with a rational mind, it doesn't seem quite so horrible.

There may yet be some fallout for Gov. Rell because of her stance. Social conservatives and religious groups won't like it, but they don't exist in large enough numbers in Connecticut to really constitute a threat. If anything, this is going to help Rell shore up bipartisan support for 2006, should she decide to run.

For now, civil unions are the perfect rational compromise to a highly emotional issue. Another generation may pass before marriage rights quietly are extended to all, but in the meantime gay couples will enjoy nearly all of the legal standing heterosexuals do. In twenty years, their unions will be as normal to us as blacks and whites sitting side-by-side on a bus. The support of our Republican governor for civil unions is a vitally important step towards that ultimate goal.

Source: Pazniokas, Mark. "Rell Joins Backers Of Same-Sex Civil Unions". Hartford Courant 2 March 2005.


Anonymous said...

I guess the true test will be to see how Rell does with her own party on this. Have the Connecticut Republicans turned purple?

If the Republicans can truly have this big a tent, it will be difficult to dislodge them from the Governor's office. How do you pin down a shape-shifter? Is she really a RINO? Will there be any "Red" consequences for her?

It seems very strange, though, to have "sensible" Republicans here in this state, and reactionary Republicans in other states. It may actually mean that Rell is one of the few Republicans that, to borrow the words of Margaret Thatcher, "I can do business with."

Genghis Conn said...

So far, only a few Republicans have voiced any kind of opposition to civil unions, most of which is the "It will lead to marriage! Oh no!" kind.

U.S. Reps. Simmons, Johnson and Shays, Republicans all, support civil unions.

stomv said...

Having not seen the bill, I'm not so sure it's a "perfectly rational" compramise.

For example, how does it interact with CT state laws regarding:
* joint taxation
* adoption
* visiting rights in hospitals
* wills and death rights
* custody settlements
* discrimination based on "marital" status
* civilly unionized couples from other states (recognition)

There are a lot of ways the law could be written to allow homosexual "unionization" without offering any corresponding rights within the state. Anybody know what the details of the law proposal might include?

Genghis Conn said...

I believe this is the amended text right here: don't see any provisions that would limit specific rights. The AP reported that "the civil union system Connecticut legislators are considering would extend all state rights and responsibilities for married heterosexual couples to gays and lesbians..." link to story.

Genghis Conn said...

Sorry, bad link.

Anonymous said...

According to a 1997 GAO report, there are at least 1,049 federal laws that deal with protections, rights and responsibilities that are linked to marriage--these would NOT be covered by civil unions. Any protections/rights explicitly created by civil union legislation in Connecticut would not apply to 49 other states.

Genghis Conn said...

Yes, but there's precious little Connecticut can do about that.

Anonymous said...

Just another worthless civil unions law from heterosexist bigots of both parties to make themselves feel good for throwing a goddamn bone instead of doing the right thing which is full marriage rights for everyone.

Genghis Conn said...

Patience. It'll come, and when it does, it'll last.

stomv said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
stomv said...


Thanks for the link. However, I'm unconvinced that this is the legislation Rell is considering. After all, if you scroll to the bottom, it says:

"Statement of Purpose:

To authorize persons of the same sex to enter into marriage. "
That sounds like marriage, not civil unions. So, which is it?

Genghis Conn said...

I must admit to being a little befuddled on the issue myself. That is the text of a bill that was passed by the committee, with additions (blue underlined) and deletions (red). Perhaps all will become clear when the Senate takes up the bill later this session.