Five months ago, the state Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in Connecticut. A bill before the General Assembly would update state statute to reflect the decision, and a new political reality was evident at the bill's public hearing.
The thrust of this bill comes down to eight words: “Marriage means the legal union of two persons.”
Gone are references to a bride and a groom. In their place is new gender-neutral language.
"Marriage equality is the law in Connecticut, and this bill won't make it any more legal," said Anne Stanbeck, director of the group, “Love Makes a Family.” "What it will do, however, is clear up confusion that exists because of Connecticut's civil union law."
The bill would transform existing civil unions to marriages as of October 2010.
Opponents of gay marriage, including the Connecticut Catholic Conference, did not ask lawmakers to undo the Supreme Court decision. Instead, Catholic Deacon David Reynolds called for expanded religious exemptions. The bill permits clergy not to perform gay marriages, but he asked, what about justices of the peace or wedding photographers?
"If this institution now becomes public policy, what happens to people that say, I really can't cooperate."
This point did not sit well with Senator John Kissel, a Republican who has opposed gay marriage legislation in the past.
"I have been with you guys all along. We're at a fork in the road. I have to let go of your hand."
Kissel said there is a new law of the land, and he didn't feel comfortable carving out broad exceptions.
"For us to to say that an individual can decide which individuals to cooperate with, and which which laws they aren't. I have a real concern with that."
Governor Rell's office says she won't comment on whether she would sign the bill until its language is finalized.