Thursday, April 14, 2005

Civil Unions Pass House

But not before an amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman is added

I'm disappointed with the state House this morning. You can read about it here, and see the breakdown of how representatives voted here.

The addition of a "definition of marriage" amendment was not necessary, although perhaps a few lawmakers felt a bit more comfortable about passing the bill with it attached. Well, good for them. It probably would have passed without it, though, and Blumenthal's legal opinion that the bill wouldn't allow marriage probably meant that Rell would have signed it regardless. But the House decided to take the safest middle road here, and the bill that was passed is now a bit less of a milestone and a bit more of a roadblock. It's a bitter victory at best.

But let's take stock for a moment. While the bill is not perfect (it never was), it's still a landmark piece of legislation. This is the furthest any legislature in the country has gone on this topic without being compelled by a court. It waters down the social conservatives' argument that this particular issue is being advanced solely by politicized judges, and not by the elected representatives of the people. Most importantly, the rights this bill grants are the same legal rights that married couples enjoy.

This bill would have been impossible thirty, twenty or even ten years ago, and it's currently impossible in most of the rest of our country. So yes, progress has been made, even though it's not all that we might have hoped. More progress will be made in the future, and perhaps there will come a time when civil unions are so common and obviously harmless that to deny same-sex couples the simple word "marriage" will seem absurd. The people of that time will look back on this bill and shake their heads at how strange the denial of marriage seems.

But, they will conclude, it was a marvelous piece of legislation for its time.


stomv said...

The brilliance of getting "progress" is that people will realize that -- hey -- it's no big deal. Connecticut is still the place we like to live.

The danger, however, is that the movement for full equal rights loses steam, because the people tangentially supportive lose interest.

Hopefully, as more and more places progress toward equal rights for gays, the rest of the nation will realize that it's OK... OK to support it, and OK to vote for it.

Anonymous said...

The next act involves the consequences. In the upcoming election cycle, will the support of civil unions be an issue? Or is this "behind" us? Will the definition of marriage still be an issue? Or is this behind us?

I think this isn't a marriage issue - it's about bigotry and whether we legislate that some people have lesser legal status than others.

Scott Harris said...

I don't know the specific legaliese of this, but in order to establish gay marriages, would they have to repeal this bill?

And, I would look to the Senate to put a kibosh on the definition. They can take it out and then just pass it right along to the Governor.

tkd27 said...

Scott, can they? My understanding of the Federal Congress is that both houses have to agree on the exact same bill. Is our state GA different?

I had read about another ammendment last night... but I guess that wasn't true? An article said they passed an ammendment to ban civil unions for people under 18. Anyone hear about that?

Because IF that's true, I think that's a ROCK solid argument for seprate but equal before the Supreme Court... but I dunno. I'm not a lawyer, either.

Genghis Conn said...

I believe that a new bill that changes the language of this section and removes the "definition" would do the trick.

I don't know if the Senate will remove the amendment. They may just pass it as is; in fact, that's pretty likely.

Political fallout from this will probably be pretty light, unless the national conservatives get in on the act. The reason I say this is because of the remarkable lack of a fuss this whole thing has caused. During the Rowland scandal, Rowland was all that people talked about. People aren't really talking about this; it's refreshingly normal. Rell may lose social conservatives when she signs this, and in a close race with a strong candidate that could cost her... but that may be it for the fallout.

Genghis Conn said...


The amendment you heard about is true; no one under 18 can get a civil union. And the Senate can't just amend the bill and have it pass, it needs to go to a joint conference committee next, I believe.

There's a nice guide to our legislative process here.

Indian2Nighthawk said...

What a shame,

For the last few days I have looked with pridea at CNN and other internet sites that talked about CT as a trailblazing state. But now that DOMA has been added I am just ashamed.

Civil Unions are great, but DOMA is unacceptable and I am shamed by my legislators if they allow this to go with DOMA.

RCK said...

I'm trying to understand realistically, what are the chances that the senate can have the definition removed? Looking over the legislative guide it seems possible, but do people think it's probable?

tkd27 said...

Ghengis, what do you think about the disparity between marriage and civil unions, now, given the 18+ amendment?

Doesn't this seem like a really good argument for "separate is unequal?" Doesn't this make it more likely that the state Supreme Court will rule the ban on same sex marriage unconstitutional?

And if so, would a 17 year old have to sue the state for it to go that far? And if that happens, will the court still rule even if by the time it reaches them the 17 year old is now 18 or 19? That's what happened with Roe v Wade, right? The child had been born, but the US Supreme Court still heard the case. Is that correct?

What are everyone's thoughts on this?

Scott Harris said...

I think you'd get the same argument that the Supreme Court gives for people trying to vote when they are under 18.

Anyways, to clarify, I wasn't saying that they could pass it through the Senate without the amendment. What I meant is that, in the Joint Conference, the Senate might strong-arm the House to remove the definition. Like I said, adding the definition might jeopordize the immediate passage of the bill.

I support it the way it is, if it has to stay that way. As you said Ghengis, when civil unions because a usual fabric of society, we can institute equal marriage rights for all people. Societal progress comes in excruitatingly small increments, and we should all be proud that Connecticut is the epicenter of the New Progressive Movement.

Genghis Conn said...

The 18+ rule is odd, especially in light of the fact that the age of consent in CT is 16. I'm really not sure that it can be justified. As for separate but unequal... I can see your point, especially given that the age of consent in CT is 16. Could be an argument made before the state Supreme Court when this court case from Madison finally gets there.

And of course, that's the pink elephant in the room in all of this. The whole process we're going through now could be rendered moot by the courts in a year or two.

Scott, I'm a little concerned about that, too. The Senate voted on the same amendment, and voted it down. If they can't agree to the compromise bill... it may not pass at all. And that would be a dreadful setback.

Scott Harris said...

Juan Candelaria, a Democrat from New Haven voted against the bill. I am going to the Capitol on Thursday to meet with a few State Representatives and one Senator, I'll be talking to him about the vote.

DeanFan84 said...

Hi Genghis!

I haven't said anything complimentary about your site yet. Well, here it is. Thanks for doing this! How great it is that somewhere, somehow, we can have an online conversation about what is going on in the state.

Thank you!

Genghis Conn said...


Thanks for the complement, I appreciate it. And let me say that while I disagree with the timing of your campaign against Lieberman, I respect and agree with the principles behind it.

stomv said...

Perhaps the 18+ requirement will be a poison-poison pill.

That is, the 18+ may undo the entire bill at a later date in the courts, or at the very least force a review of the bill in the future -- perhaps a more tolerant future.

ctkeith said...

Rep Christopher Caruso spoke at the Granny D event in New Haven On Thursday.He said the fact that the wingnuts had about 350 people at the capitol and our side had almost none changed over 30 votes in the house.
We All fell asleep because everyone thought passage was assured.We must NEVER allow that to happen again,PERIOD.

ctkeith said...

PS.Those 30 votes were on the DOMA amendment.

Scott Charles Caplan said...

Regarding the 18+ amendment, if you watch the deliberations on Ct-N online, it's pretty clear that legislative intent would probably pass whatever scrutiny is due it. More importantly, the hallmark of the bill (despite the DOMA) is that it was done by the people, through their legislators, not by the unelected judges. Getting the DOMA or any other part of the bill kicked out in court affects virtually nobody and sets public opinion, if not in CT, in the rest of the country, against equality.