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court: Antigay group cannot join marriage suit

court: Antigay group cannot join marriage suit

The Connecticut supreme court has denied a conservative group's request to intervene in a lawsuit over whether gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to marry in the state. The court decision, released Monday, upholds a lower court's ruling denying the Family Institute of Connecticut's motion to intervene in the case.

Eight gay couples are challenging the constitutionality of the state's marriage laws. That case is pending. Connecticut became the second state in the nation, after Vermont, to allow civil unions. In 2005 the Democrat-controlled legislature passed, and Republican governor M. Jodi Rell signed into law, a bill legalizing civil unions but defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

Eight couples sued the state, claiming that civil unions are an inferior status and violate their constitutional rights to equal protection, due process, and free expression and association. The plaintiffs sought a court injunction compelling the state to grant each couple a marriage license rather than a civil union license, which the judge denied.

The couples say the laws are unconstitutional because they treat gay and heterosexual couples differently. The Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, a group involved in the case, used a similar argument to win same-sex marriage in Massachusetts.

In Connecticut a lower-court judge ruled last month that gay and lesbian couples have not been harmed by the state's decision to legalize same-sex civil unions rather than grant full marriage rights. GLAD has appealed that decision.

The Family Institute wanted legal standing in the case to present evidence that it says shows children are hurt by living in gay and lesbian homes. They also argued that state attorney general Richard Blumenthal was not defending the state's marriage laws aggressively enough.

Connecticut recently became the first state to offer civil unions without a court order, but GLAD and the couples involved in the lawsuit argue that civil unions are not equal to full marriage. Mary Bonauto, an attorney for GLAD, said the court's decision provides "a very helpful reality check," affirming the argument that the Family Institute and heterosexual couples would not be harmed by the plaintiffs' quest for the right to marry. "Obviously we're pleased by the decision," she said. "There was no reason for an antigay group to become part of the case to make its arguments."

The supreme court also agreed with the trial court's opinion that letting the Family Institute join the case could open the door to scores of others, making the complicated case even more unwieldy. "The trial court properly balanced the parties' interest in the expeditious resolution of this action with its desire to avail itself of the institute's proffered expertise," the supreme court opinion said.

The Family Institute argues that the best interests of children are not protected by allowing them to be raised by gay couples and that Blumenthal should have tried to get the case thrown out. Peter Wolfgang, director of public policy at the Hartford-based institute, said Monday that the decision strengthens their resolve to seek a referendum on a proposal to change the state constitution to define marriage as a union between a man and woman.

"We believe strongly that this court ruling proves this decision ought to be left to the citizens of Connecticut," Wolfgang said. "We're disappointed we didn't win. We think the supreme court made the wrong decision and should have followed the good example set by New York's highest court." (AP)

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