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.