Friday, October 10, 2008
Congratulations to the people of Connecticut on joining the enlightened citizens of the world. Today its Supreme Court overturned the bar to marriage by gays and lesbians. Even though a form of "civil union" was recently enacted, the state's legislature had issued this disclaimer, expressly stating that the gay rights law shall not be:
... deemed or construed (1) to mean the state of Connecticut condones homosexuality or bisexuality or any equivalent lifestyle, (2) to authorize the promotion of homosexuality or bisexuality in educational institutions or require the teaching in educational institutions of homosexuality or bisexuality as an acceptable lifestyle, (3) to authorize or permit the use of numerical goals or quotas, or other types of affirmative action programs, with respect to homosexuality or bisexuality in the administration or enforcement of the [state's antidiscrimination laws], (4) to authorize the recognition of or the right of marriage between persons of the same sex, or (5) to establish sexual orientation as a specific and separate cultural classification in society.
By singling out same sex relationships in this manner—there is, of course, no such statutory disclaimer for opposite sex relationships—the legislature effectively has proclaimed, as a matter of state policy, that same sex relationships are disfavored. That policy, which is unprecedented among the various antidiscrimination measures enacted in this state, represents a kind of state-sponsored disapproval of same sex relationships and, consequently, serves to undermine the legitimacy of homosexual relationships, to perpetuate feelings of personal inferiority and inadequacy among gay persons, and to diminish the effect of the laws barring discrimination against gay persons. Indeed, the purposeful description of homosexuality as a ''lifestyle'' not condoned by the state stigmatizes gay persons and equates their identity with conduct that is disfavored by the state.
Like [other] once prevalent views, our conventional understanding of marriage must yield to a more contemporary appreciation of the rights entitled to constitutional protection. Interpreting our state constitutional provisions in accordance with firmly established equal protection principles leads inevitably to the conclusion that gay persons are entitled to marry the otherwise qualified same sex partner of their choice. To decide otherwise would require us to apply one set of constitutional principles to gay persons and another to all others. The guarantee of equal protection under the law, and our obligation to uphold that command, forbids us from doing so. In accordance with these state constitutional requirements, same sex couples cannot be denied the freedom to marry.