Thursday, April 14, 2005

Almost Civil Civil Union

Yesterday, the Connecticut House approved a civil-union bill for same-sex couples. However, conservatives amended it with a rider than specifies that marriages in the state are between a man and a woman only.

The state Senate had already passed a civil-union bill -- without the rider -- and should approve one with the amendment in conference. The House vote was 85 to 63, and last week's Senate one was 27 to 9.

Some bad will may remain. Of 52 Republicans in the House, 14 joined 71 Democrats in favor in the House, but Speaker James A. Amann did not. The DoMA-style amendment was tighter and more partisan. It was 80 to 67 to define marriage as heterosexual. The Republican vote was 47 to 4 (one absent). Democrats were 33 for and 63 against (three absent).

The Family Institute of Connecticut had led a vote-no drive on the civil-union law. The ever-jolly executive director, Brian Brown, told the Hartford Courant reporter that the amendment was only "paying lip service" to anti groups like his."It's still same-sex marriage in everything but name," Brown said.

On both points, he may well be right. The House version includes:
Parties to a civil union shall have all the same benefits, protections and responsibilities under law, whether derived from the general statutes, administrative regulations or court rules, policy, common law or any other source of civil law, as are granted to spouses in a marriage.
Another minor amendment limits civil unions to those over 18.

The New York Times quoted Senator Andrew J. McDonald, main sponsor of the bill in the other house, as saying "There are 588 rights and opportunities that are going to be made available to same-sex couples. That's an undeniable victory of unprecedented proportions."

Gov. M. Jodi Rell should sign the bill after both houses finalize it. According to the Washington Post, Rell checked with her attorney general's office to ensure that this was not really legalizing same-sex marriage. When she heard from Attorney General Richard Blumenthal that it was not, she urged the House members to pass the bill.

If the cliché that good agreements mean that everyone is a little unhappy, this one qualified. The same-sex marriage folk wanted Massachusetts-style legalization. The anti groups wanted defeat. The liberal sorts hate the DoMA worded amendment. The conservatives fear a slippery slope into the swamp of happy homosexuals debasing marriage for all of us straights.


Ryvr said...

I'm not "a little unhappy." I guess I am one of the "liberal sorts," and I think we have worked too long and too hard defeating DOMA's to accept one for the sake of Marriage-Lite(R).
I'm hoping against hope that enough other people out there have the will to end this CU-with-DOMA nightmare now by defeating SB 963 as amended, and come back as soon as possible for *equality*.

massmarrier said...

I see that you live in the belly of this particular beast, in Connecticut. Among the legislators, there seem to be many who think there is no harm done by adding DoMA wording.

Perhaps we shouldn't be too smug in Massachusetts. There's still a slim chance that the amendment pushers will win. It does seem very unlikely it will even get on the 2006 ballot.

I am not sure how I'd feel in such a half-a-loaf circumstance as Connecticut apparently will get. You have to wonder whether adding the one-man/one-woman wording will increase the odds against full same-sex marriage. Civil unions are a big step forward, but does it go into a legislative cul-de-sac>

Carry on!