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Gay couples seek
marriage licenses in equality campaign

Gay couples seek
marriage licenses in equality campaign

For the third consecutive Valentine's Day, George Chien and Julio Flores were denied a marriage license Tuesday in Hartford, Conn. "Separate is not equal. Our relationship is not second-class," Chien said at a news conference outside City Hall Tuesday morning. "We're asking not for special rights. We're asking for equal rights." Gay couples across the United States asked for marriage licenses at their city and town halls Tuesday as part of an annual marriage equality campaign sponsored by the Metropolitan Community Church, the nation's largest predominantly gay Christian church. Cindi Love, executive director of the national church, said she expected more than 1,000 couples from 237 churches in 47 states to participate. In Connecticut, this is the first Valentine's Day that gay couples are eligible for civil unions, which give them the same state-level rights, though not federal rights, as heterosexual married couples. Many say that's not good enough. "Civil unions still demean gay couples by saying our love is not equal or on par with the love of straight couples, and we find that demeans our relationships and ourselves as human beings," said Frank O'Gorman, director of the Hartford-based group People of Faith. Connecticut's legislature was the first in the nation to legalize civil unions without court pressure. Following lawsuits, Massachusetts allowed same-sex marriage, and Vermont has civil unions. A Connecticut judge is scheduled to hear arguments in March in a lawsuit brought by eight gay couples who claim the state's marriage laws are unconstitutional because they treat gay and heterosexual couples differently. Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, a group involved in the case, used a similar argument to win marriage equality in Massachusetts. Chien, senior pastor at Metropolitan Community Church in Hartford, and Flores, an associate pastor, asked for a marriage license at Hartford City Hall on Tuesday but were turned away. "Every year it's disappointing, it's discouraging, it's maddening," Chien said. "We are not asking for anything except to be treated like other people." They were joined Tuesday by about 20 supporters holding signs that read "Equal Rites" and "Marriage Equality." "Unfortunately, Connecticut only allows opposite-sex marriages and civil unions at this time," Tanya Rivera, Hartford's assistant registrar of vital statistics, told them. "The civil union applications are to the right." When Chien again said they wanted a marriage license, Rivera replied, "Sorry, that law hasn't passed just yet." That was fine with Brian Brown, executive director of the Family Institute of Connecticut, a group that opposes marriage equality and plans to push for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. "You're not allowed to just make marriage up as you go along," he said. "Marriage is some definite thing, and what marriage is, is the union of one man and one woman." (AP)

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