The state permits gay and lesbian couples to obtain civil unions, but these marriage-like partnerships don't provide all of the intangible benefits that come with a marriage license, asserted Bennett Klein, a lawyer with Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders.
But, asked Superior Court Judge Patty Jenkins Pittman, is that sufficient to revise the state's marriage laws? "I'm still troubled ... whether there is enough legal harm," she said.
Jenkins Pittman must weigh Klein's argument about the fundamental right to marry against Assistant Attorney General Jane Rosenberg's assertion that no such right exists under state law.
"All the rights and benefits have been granted," said Rosenberg, who represented the state. "It's unclear what we're left with other than the word `marriage.'" (Altimari)
Yet the word matters a great deal to the people on both sides. When civil unions were quietly and peacefully implemented last year, there wasn't a rush. Many gay couples haven't taken advantage of civil unions because they see them as an admission of second-class status, even though they come with all the legal rights of marriage.
Social conservatives, on the other hand, see marriage as an essential building block of society that must not be tinkered with, let alone be extended to people they think are rather immoral and icky.
Connecticut's civil unions law makes the outcome of the case difficult to predict. Another wild card that may be played comes in the form of the lovable thick-necked goofs at the Family Institute of Connecticut, who would like to intervene in the case. They feel that the Attorney General is not doing his job by not spelling out exactly how homosexual marriages are harmful to children (and possibly bunnies. Cute ones).
Brian Brown, who is currently the head of the FIC, argues that social science shows that same-sex marriages have been shown to hurt children living in those households. This is, in fact, untrue.
In court cases and in the national political debate over same-sex marriage, both proponents and opponents regularly appeal to social science to support their positions that the welfare of children is well-served or ill-served by same-sex marriage. Although each side would love to have a conclusive, scientific "silver bullet" that eliminates all doubt, no definitive answers reside in social science research. Not only judges, but voters considering ballot initiatives, legislators evaluating proposed bills, and ordinary citizens attempting to assess the material they read in their daily newspapers must know how to weigh the social science claims made by advocates on both sides. (Newman). --emphasis mine
I suggest you give the article, which is entitled The Use and Abuse of Social Science in the Same-Sex Marriage Debate, a read. If you don't have time, give it a skim. It's representative of what I've found in my research of this topic: that social science doesn't have any conclusive proof either way that children who grow up in households headed by a same-sex couple are any worse off than children living in a "traditional" household.
Mr. Brown is therefore basing his claim that children are harmed by same-sex marriage on faulty and incomplete science. This means that even if his group is allowed to testify, their assertions hopefully won't make much of an impact on the decision.
This doesn't mean that the judge will necesarily find for the plaintiffs. But the removal of Mr. Brown's rather paranoid argument levels the playing field. Both of the traditional arguments, that gays are legally relegated to a second-class status (solved by civil unions) and that gay marriage hurts children (an unsubstantiated claim), don't actually apply here.
If I had to guess, I'd say that the court is preparing to rule against the plaintiffs. This isn't necessarily a bad thing for them, since the case will almost certainly be appealed to the State Supreme Court. But even defeat there might not be such a bad thing, in the long run.
Gays should be allowed to marry. It's silly and unfair to deny them this basic right, and in a perfect world there would be no hesitation. But the world is imperfect. It's been less than forty years since Stonewall, and old habits and stereotypes die hard. I worry that pushing for too much, too soon may result in more division and strife instead of understanding and tolerance.
In twenty years, we will have gay marriage. That's where we're heading, and we will get there eventually. Advocates of full marriage can force the issue now and face the consequences, or have patience and trust that a better, more open world can slowly and surely be built, instead.
Alitmari, Daniela. "Judging Gay Marriage." Hartford Courant 22 March, 2006.
Norton, Stephen A. "The Use and Abuse of Social Science in the Same-Sex Marriage Debate." New York Law School Law Review 49(2): 2004.