A Connecticut legislative committee rejected a bill Wednesday that would have extended the rights of marriage to same-sex couples and created a domestic-partner registry. Opponents of the bill said the registry arrangement was too similar to marriage and would have become a springboard to opening the state's marriage laws and sanctioning gay and lesbian unions. The bill died on a 26-16 vote in the judiciary committee. "It is, essentially at its heart, marriage by another name," said state senator John Kissel. "They're just creating a new title, a registration system, and you get all the benefits."
Under the legislation, committed couples of the same gender would register with the secretary of the state--a system similar to one established in California about two years ago. Couples would have to live at the same residence to be eligible for the rights and benefits that civil marriage in Connecticut currently provides. Proponents estimate there are 588 laws in Connecticut in which marriage is a factor. The statutes affect divorce and support, legal authority to act in matters affecting family members, property and commerce activities, benefits of government officials, veterans and military personnel, wills, trusts, settlements, taxes, vital records, public assistance, housing, labor, and voting procedures.
"It would go way beyond where we, as a state, have gone before," said Sen. Andrew McDonald, committee cochairman and a proponent of the bill. McDonald, who is gay, said the legislation would provide same-sex couples equality under the law. "Dignity and acceptance--that is something society must do for them," he said.
Wednesday's committee vote marked the first time that Connecticut lawmakers have voted specifically on extending rights and benefits to same-sex couples. Last year the legislature passed a law allowing two people of any gender to legally designate one another to make medical decisions and end-of-life choices, such as organ donation and life support, among other benefits.
Proponents of the domestic-partner registry said they are not giving up. Both McDonald and Rep. Michael Lawlor, the other committee cochairman, said the bill could be changed and amended to another bill later in the legislative session.