Oh, to be a Connecticut Yankee in the Court of Richard Palmer. Over the weekend came the fabulous news that Connecticut has become the third US state to legalise same-sex marriage after its Supreme Court handed down a 4-3 verdict declaring its civil unions insufficient and the barring of gays and lesbians from marriage discriminatory.
We conclude that, in light of the history of pernicious discrimination faced by gay men and lesbians, and because the institution of marriage carries with it a status and significance that the newly created classification of civil unions does not embody, the segregation of heterosexual and homosexual couples into separate institutions constitutes a cognisable harm, wrote Judge Palmer in his majority opinion.
The state has failed to provide sufficient justification for excluding same-sex couples from the institution of marriage.
And, unlike in California where there are fears voters will overturn same-sex marriage through a ballot initiative coinciding with the presidential election, even Connecticut’s Republicans have conceded the decision will stand.
Reacting to the news, Connecticut’s Republican Governor Jodi Rell, voiced her opposition to the ruling but also her intention to stand by it. The Supreme Court has spoken.
I do not believe their voice reflects the majority of the people of Connecticut. However, I am also firmly convinced that attempts to reverse this decision, either legislatively or by amending the state Constitution, will not meet with success. I will therefore abide by the ruling.
Conservatives will be sweating uneasily in Maine, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Oregon, Hawaii, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia -” all of which have civil unions or other forms of registered partnerships and could all see similar court challenges. Bills for both same-sex marriage and civil unions are also before the legislature in Rhode Island where out-of-state partnerships, including marriage, are already recognised.
This decision confirms a phenomenon being seen the world over -” after civil unions are normalised, societies quickly come to think of them as marriage, and the real deal follows inevitably after.
Australian lawmakers should take note of the decision as well -” separate but equal has been the catchcry of polite segregationists throughout history and remains so today. Forcing different groups to access the same benefits through separate institutions is as wrong as forcing them to eat the same food in separate restaurants or travel in separate buses.
The further we fall behind Europe and the Americas, the more our polite segregationists will be seen for what they really are.