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)