senate on Wednesday approved a landmark bill that would
make the state the first to recognize civil unions for
same-sex couples without being pressured by the courts.
After nearly four hours of debate, senators
voted 27-9 in favor of the legislation, which
proponents say will likely clear the state house of
representatives--possibly as early as next week. Gov. M.
Jodi Rell, a Republican, has not taken a stand on the
bill but has said she supports the concept of civil unions.
While opponents of the plan warned that it was
the final step toward allowing same-sex marriage,
supporters said the state should be proud to
voluntarily extend basic human rights to thousands of gay
and lesbian couples. "I believe that our most precious
and important job is to make sure the rights of all
our citizens are protected where they exist and
expanded where they don't exist," said Sen. Mary Ann
Handley, a Manchester Democrat, who is part of a group
of legislators that plans to press for same-sex
marriage in Connecticut in the future.
The vote came a day after Kansas became the 18th
state to pass a constitutional amendment banning
same-sex marriage. Thirteen other states passed such
prohibitions last year, while Alabama, South Dakota, and
Tennessee plan elections next year on constitutional bans.
Gay rights proponents originally hoped to pass a
bill similar to the Massachusetts law that allows
same-sex couples to marry. But legislative leaders
determined that there was more political support this
session for Vermont-style civil unions, which extend
the same rights and privileges of marriage but without
the marriage license. According to the 2000 census,
7,400 same-sex couples reside in Connecticut. (AP)