Conn. bishops call for constitutional convention to reverse same-sex marriage decision

Archbishop Henry Mansell of Hartford, Connecticut
Archbishop Henry Mansell of Hartford, Connecticut


The Supreme Court of Connecticut, in a 4 to 3 decision, ruled on Friday that homosexual couples have the right to marry. In response, the Connecticut Catholic Conference said the decision creates an “inevitable conflict between people of faith, the natural law and the authority of the State” and called for a Constitutional Convention to overturn the decision.

The Connecticut court’s ruling marks the first time a state that had willingly offered an alternative to marriage was instructed by a court that civil unions aren’t enough to protect the rights of same-sex couples, the Associated Press reports.

Justice Richard N. Palmer, writing for the majority, argued that denying marriage to same-sex couples would create separate standards.

"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," he wrote.

The three dissenting justices issued separate opinions.

Justice Peter T. Zarella argued that there is no fundamental right to same-sex marriage. He accused the majority decision of failing to discuss the purpose of marriage laws, which he said is “to privilege and regulate procreative conduct."

“The ancient definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman has its basis in biology, not bigotry,” Justice Zarella continued. “If the state no longer has an interest in the regulation of procreation, then that is a decision for the legislature or the people of the state and not this court.”

The decision was decried elsewhere.

"Even the legislature, as liberal as ours, decided that marriage is between a man and a woman," said Peter Wolfgang, executive director of the Family Institute of Connecticut. "This is about our right to govern ourselves. It is bigger than gay marriage."

Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell, a Republican, reacted to the ruling by saying that she disagreed with it, but that “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."

Attorney General Richard Blumethal said the ruling will go into effect on Oct. 28, when it is implemented by action of the Superior Court. According to the Associated Press, he said there will be no appeal.

House Speaker Jim Amann, a Democrat, said he expects the issue to be taken up by the state’s General Assembly.

The lawsuit was filed in 2004 after eight same-sex couples were denied marriage licenses. The couples then sued the state alleging the violation of their constitutional rights to equal protection and due process.

The state’s marriage law, they claimed, denied them the financial, social and emotional benefits of marriage.

Courts in Massachusetts and California have also instituted same-sex marriage, though California voters could repeal it through an initiative in the November election. Both courts claimed that domestic partnerships were unequal to the rights given to heterosexual marriage.

Michael Culhane, Executive Director of the Connecticut Catholic Conference (CCC), told CNA in a Friday phone interview that the decision “essentially mandates same-sex marriage.”

He explained the decision had been argued on May 14, 2007.

“Here we are a year and a half later and decision just came down,” he added.

Culhane said that, in his tentative opinion, the decision is based on the Connecticut constitution and therefore the decision as written is “final.”

However, he added that the CCC is still analyzing the decision.

A Friday statement from the CCC said both the CCC and the Catholic Bishops of Connecticut are “extremely disappointed” in the decision, charging that it “imposes” the recognition of same-sex marriage upon the people of Connecticut.

“This decision is in direct conflict with the position of our state legislature and courts of other states and is a terribly regrettable exercise in judicial activism,” they stated.

Furthermore, the bishops and the Catholic Conference argued that “Four people have not just extended a supposed civil right to a particular class of individuals, but have chosen to redefine the institution of marriage.”

The CCC said that, excepting Massachusetts and California, other states have ruled that marriage is a “special institution” and did not choose to redefine it.

“It appears our State Supreme Court has forgotten that courts should interpret laws and legislatures should make laws,” the CCC statement alleged.

The CCC favorably cited Justice Zarella’s dissenting opinion, adding, “The majority utterly failed to consider the relationship between the laws of marriage and family.”

“The Supreme Court of Connecticut has chosen to ignore the wisdom of our elected officials, the will of the people, and historical social and religious traditions spanning thousands of years by imposing a social experiment upon the people of our state,” the CCC remarked.

The decision by the Supreme Court also raises a “very real concern” about the infringement on religious liberty and freedom of speech, the conference asserted.

The real battle in the court case was not about rights being denied but about “conferring and enforcing social acceptance of a particular lifestyle; a lifestyle many people of faith and advocates of the natural law refuse to accept.”

“This ruling creates an inevitable conflict between people of faith, the natural law and the authority of the State,” the CCC said, calling for people to vote for a Constitutional Convention and the right of referendum on Election Day.

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