Connecticut residents debate gay marriage

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com January 31 2003 12:00 AM ET

Supporters and opponents of marriage rights for same-sex couples faced off at the Connecticut state capitol Wednesday. Holding dueling rallies and news conferences, each group promised a fight in the latest effort in the legislature to extend state marriage laws to gay and lesbian couples.

Opponents of same-sex marriage delivered boxes of petitions to legislative leaders and the governor. The Knights of Columbus collected 70,000 signatures from people who want the legislature to enact a DOMA, or Defense of Marriage Act, that would spell out in law that Connecticut recognizes marriage between only one man and one woman. Brian Brown, executive director of the Family Institute of Connecticut, said citizens are worried about the continued effort by some lawmakers to push for same-sex marriage.

"If they continue to move in this direction, they are moving against the will of the people," Brown told about 150 supporters from throughout the state.

Rabbi Daniel Green of New Haven said he questions how the state could deny a father and son, for example, from marrying if it granted same-sex couples that right. "The risks are simply too great," he said.

Just yards away, at another rally, about 150 advocates of same-sex marriage said they believe a growing number of Connecticut residents are supportive of changing the marriage laws. They gave legislators about 200 letters, many accompanied by photographs, from couples, parents, and religious leaders telling their personal stories about how the state's marriage laws are discriminatory and have affected their lives. Some passing motorists honked their horns as the attendees held signs that read, "It's not about tolerance; it's about civil rights" and "100,000 bigots can be wrong."

Katy Zapatika, 26, of Waterbury came to the rally with her mother, Jane Zapatika. Both women are Catholics. "I'm a gay person, and I expect the right to marry whomever I want to marry," Katy Zapatika said. "The old religious values don't apply as far as I'm concerned anymore. This is not a religious issue. It's a civil rights issue."

A public hearing on the marriage and DOMA bills will be held in the coming weeks at the capitol.