Connecticut’s legislature moved closer to legalizing civil unions for same-sex couples last week as a key panel approved a measure that could make Connecticut the second state to recognize gay unions through legislative action.
The Joint Judiciary Committee voted 25-13 to pass a bill that would give gay and lesbian couples the same state rights as married heterosexuals, except for the right to obtain a marriage license.
Proponents said the civil union measure has more bipartisan support among lawmakers than legalizing gay marriage, and stands a better chance of passing the House and Senate by early June, when the session ends.
Gov. M. Jodi Rell, a Republican, has not said whether she would sign the bill, saying she would study the precise wording if it comes to her desk. Rell has said she supports civil rights for same-sex couples but believes marriage is between a man and a woman.
Vermont lawmakers enacted the nation’s first civil union law for same-sex couples four years ago, following a ruling by the Supreme Court. Massachusetts’ high court legalized gay marriage last year.
Some gay rights advocates hailed the committee vote, but many expressed disappointment that the measure would not approve same-sex marriage. Anne Stanback, president of Love Makes a Family, said the legislation “would write second-class citizenship into our law.”
Opponents of gay marriage warned that if the bill becomes law, same-sex couples could go to the courts and argue that the Legislature intended to recognize gay marriage.
“My fear is that people will see this as a compromise and clearly it is not a compromise,” said Marie Hilliard, executive director of the Connecticut Catholic Conference. “This is same-sex marriage by another name.”
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