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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Gay couples marry in Connecticut

Associated Press reported that same-sex couples began marrying in Connecticut on Wednesday after a judge cleared the way, a victory for gay-rights activists still enraged over the vote last week that cost them the right to wed in California.

On Oct. 10th, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that same-sex couples have the right to wed rather than accept a 2005 civil union law designed to give them the same rights as married couples. A lower-court judge entered a final order permitting same-sex marriages on Wednesday morning.

"Today, Connecticut sends a message of hope an inspiration to lesbian and gay people throughout this country who simply want to be treated as equal citizens by their government," said the plaintiff's attorney, Bennett Klein.

Massachusetts is the only other state that allows gay marriages. Like the highest courts in that state and Connecticut, the California Supreme Court had ruled this past June that same-sex marriage was legal. But after thousands of marriages were conducted in that state, California voters last week approved an amendment which overturned that ruling.

Constitutional amendments to ban gay marriage also passed last week in Arizona and Florida, and Arkansas voters approved a measure banning unmarried couples from serving as adoptive or foster parents.

The California vote has sparked protests and several lawsuits asking that state's Supreme Court to overturn the prohibition.

A group of Southern California activists has launched an effort to have simultaneous protests outside state houses and city halls in every U.S. state on Saturday. Word of the event has spread through social networking sites such as Facebook, and protests have been scheduled outside the U.S. Capitol and in more than 100 cities.

According to the state public health department, 2,032 civil union licenses were issued in Connecticut between October 2005 and July 2008.

The health department had new marriage applications printed that reflect the change. Instead of putting one name under "bride" and the other under "groom," couples will see two boxes marked "bride/groom/spouse."

Connecticut voters could have opened the door to ending gay marriage last week by voting for a constitutional convention to amend the state's constitution, but the measure was defeated.

Peter Wolfgang, the executive director of the Family Institute of Connecticut, a gay-marriage opponent, acknowledged that banning gay weddings in Connecticut will be difficult but vowed not to give up. He condemned the high court's decision as undemocratic.

"Unlike California, we did not have a remedy," Wolfgang said. "It must be overturned with patience, determination and fortitude."

The state's 2005 civil union law will remain on the books, at least for now. Same-sex couples can continue to enter civil unions, which give them the same legal rights and privileges in Connecticut as married couples without the status of being married. Several states, including California, allow domestic partnerships or civil unions for same-sex couples.


Associated Press writers Susan Haigh in Hartford, Connecticut, and Lisa Leff in San Francisco contributed to this report.

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