Gays Challenge Conn. Marriage Laws

August 27, 2004

Seven gay couples recently denied marriage licenses in Connecticut have filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the state’s marriage laws, which exclude same-sex couples.

All seven couples applied for the licenses in Madison, a shoreline town east of New Haven.

“In the end, this is a case about real people with real families asking their government to treat them fairly,” said Mary Bonauto, a lawyer representing Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, or GLAD, the same group that successfully challenged marriage laws in Massachusetts.

The lawsuit, filed in New Haven Superior Court by GLAD and the Connecticut Civil Liberties Union, names a town official in Madison and Department of Public Health Commissioner J. Robert Galvin. The public health agency handles the administration of marriage licenses in the state.

News of the lawsuit prompted calls from opponents for a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

“Instead of going through the normal channels of democracy, they are actually subverting democracy,” said Brian Brown, executive director of the Family Institute of Connecticut. “I think that they have overreached. I think that this will not play well with the Connecticut voters.”

Bonauto would not elaborate on the politics involved in deciding to file the suit in Connecticut. She instead focused on the plaintiffs’ personal reasons for wanting marriage rights, such as the ability to visit one another in the hospital or provide legal protections for their children.

Bonauto acknowledged that same-sex issues have been in the forefront in Connecticut, and that recent public opinion polls have shown a growing acceptance.

“The issue here is just ripe,” she said.

Plaintiff Suzanne Artis and her partner, Geraldine, said they have been together for a decade and have three children. The legal rights that come with marriage would help them protect their family, both women told reporters during a news conference at a Hartford hotel.

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal will represent the state. In a statement, he said that the legislature has not authorized the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples in the state, or approved same-sex marriage ceremonies.

“Several statutes and court decisions indicate clearly that the General Assembly has authorized a marriage relationship only between a man and a woman,” Blumenthal said. “These laws, like any duly enacted state statues, are entitled to a presumption ofconstitutionality.”

Bonauto, the lead attorney in the lawsuit, said she expects the case to take three years.

Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistribute

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