civil unions law, the first in the nation passed without
court intervention, faces a stern test in the state supreme
court on Monday.
Eight gay and
lesbian couples say the state's refusal to grant marriage
licenses violates their constitutional rights and denies
them the financial, social, and emotional benefits of
president of the group Love Makes a Family, and a handful
of same-sex-marriage supporters, were among the first to
arrive at the supreme court on Monday morning.
''We got here
early because we wanted to make sure we were part of the
history,'' Stanback said.
She and her
partner of 23 years have not had a civil union because they
are waiting for full marriage rights.
A ruling in their
favor could have nationwide implications for states
that have adopted or are considering civil union-like
legislation. Connecticut in 2005 passed a civil unions
law, which state officials say gives same-sex couples
the equality they seek.
Massachusetts allows same-sex couples to marry.
Connecticut, Vermont, California, New Jersey, Maine, and
Washington have laws allowing either civil unions or
domestic partnerships, as does the District of
Columbia. Hawaii extends certain spousal rights to same-sex
couples and cohabiting heterosexual pairs.
couples, who have been together between 10 and 32 years,
say civil unions are inferior to marriage and violate their
rights to equal protection and due process.
have federal rights related to taxes, Social Security
beneficiary rules, veterans' benefits, and other laws that
people in civil unions don't have.
unions aren't recognized nationwide, other rights, such as
the ability to make medical decisions for an incapacitated
partner, disappear when couples cross state lines.
couples' claim was dismissed by a lower court last year
when a judge said they received the equality they sought
when Connecticut passed a same-sex civil unions law.
The couples appealed.
Department of Public Health and the Madison town clerk's
office were named as defendants in the case after
denying marriage licenses to the couples based on
state attorney general Richard Blumenthal's advice.
argument is, the trial court correctly recognized that there
is a rational basis for the state to use a different name
for the same rights and benefits accorded same-sex
couples,'' Blumenthal said. ''The rights and benefits
are identical, whether the union is called a civil
union or a marriage.''
A bill is pending
in Connecticut's legislature to approve same-sex
marriage, but leaders of the judiciary committee say they
want to pull it from consideration this session
because they do not believe enough lawmakers would
vote to approve it.
governor M. Jodi Rell, who signed the civil unions bill into
law in 2005, has said she would veto a same-sex marriage
bill. Rell has said she believes marriage is between
one man and one woman.
supreme court will not rule immediately Monday after the
arguments are presented. It is not expected to announce its
decision until later this year.
A similar case is
pending before California's high court. (Stephanie