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senate approves civil unions bill

Connecticut
senate approves civil unions bill

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The Connecticut 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)

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