Connecticut became the third American state — and the eighth government in the world — to offer legal marriage to same-sex couples on October 10, 2008. Marriage applications were available starting on November 12, 2008.
As a result of the suit — Kerrigan & Mock v. Connecticut Dept. of Public Health — married, same-sex couples will finally be treated as next-of-kin within Connecticut. The Connecticut legal marriage status for same-sex couples is recognized by Massachusetts, New York, and California, but not by the U.S. Government, and many other states.
On August 25, 2004, New England’s Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) filed suit on behalf of seven gay and lesbian Connecticut couples who were denied marriage licenses in Madison, Connecticut, challenging the State’s discriminatory denial of marriage rights to same-sex couples. The plaintiff couples, who had been in committed relationships 10-30 years — many raising children — contended that only marriage would provide them with the protections and benefits they need to live securely as a family. The defendants were the Department of Public Health (DPH), which supervises the registration of all marriages, and Dorothy C. Bean, the Madison town registrar of vital statistics.
There were motions to intervene in the case by the Connecticut Family Institute and two town clerks. The motions were denied by Judge Patty Jenkins Pittman of New Haven Superior Court. The clerks dropped their appeal, but the Family Institute appealed to the Connecticut Supreme Court, which affirmed the Trial Court’s denial in a decision issued on August 15, 2006.
GLAD filed a motion for summary judgment and extensive briefs on the merits of the case itself. In addition, an amicus brief signed by 25 amici supporting marriage was also submitted. The Attorney General, defending the case, filed a reply brief and four opposing amici briefs were filed. Arguments in the motion for summary judgment were heard on March 21, 2006 in New Haven Superior Court.
On June 12, 2006, Judge Pittman denied the plaintiff’s motion, ruling that the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage did not violate the Connecticut Constitution. The plaintiffs appealed this decision to the Connecticut Supreme Court.
On May 14, 2007, GLAD Senior Attorney Ben Klein presented oral argument in the case before the Connecticut Supreme Court.
Mary Bonauto, GLAD’s civil rights director:
“This case presents an historic opportunity for Connecticut. Marriage is both a profound personal commitment and unique legal relationship that provides enormous protections to families. As a simple matter of equality, it is time for Connecticut to end this discrimination against same-sex couples and their families.”
On October 10, 2008, the Connecticut Supreme Court issued their 4-3 ruling in favor of full marriage equality for same-sex couples.
Connecticut Court Finding Excerpts
“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 cognizable harm. We also conclude that|
(1) our state scheme discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation,
(2) for the same reasons that classifications predicated on gender are considered quasi-suspect for purposes of the equal protection provisions of the United States constitution, sexual orientation constitutes a quasi-suspect classification for purposes of the equal protection provisions of the state constitution, and, therefore, our statutes discriminating against gay persons are subject to heightened or intermediate judicial scrutiny, and
(3) the state has failed to provide sufficient justification for excluding same sex couples from the institution of marriage.”
“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.”
Kerrigan & Mock v. Connecticut Dept. of Public Health was supported by GLAD in cooperation with Maureen Murphy of Murphy, Murphy, Nugent in New Haven, Kenneth J. Bartschi of Horton, Shields & Knox in Hartford, and the Connecticut Civil Liberties Union.
The Connecticut Kerrigan and Mock Couples
- Elizabeth (Beth) Kerrigan, 49, and Joanne (Jody) Mock, 50
Together since 1995. They have twin sons, Carlos and Fernando.
- Carol Conklin, 51, and Janet Peck, 53
Together since 1977.
- Geraldine Artis, 35, and Suzanne Artis, 33
Together since 1995. They have three children, Geras and twins, Zanagee and Gezani.
- Stephen Davis, 52, and Jeffrey Busch, 41
Together since 1990. They have son, Elijah (Eli) Davis Busch.
- J.E. Martin, 42, and Denise Howard, 47
Together since 1991. They have two children, Rachel and Ross.
- John Anderson, 61, and Garrett Stack, 57
Together since 1981.
no photo available
- Barbara Levine-Ritterman, 51, and Robin Levine-Ritterman, 45
Together since 1989. They have two children, Maya and Joshua.
All photos of the Connecticut Kerrigan and Mock couples are curtesy of|
© 2005, Mainframe Photographics, and GLAD.
Connecticut Marriage License Process
- Apply at any Connecticut county clerk’s office where you plan to be married.
(Offices are usually located within the county probate court or circuit court.)
- License fee: $30 cash.
- Must be 18 or older to marry without parental consent.
Photo id such as a driver’s license or a passport.
Social security numbers.
Mother’s maiden name.
Names of parents’ birthplaces.
Dates and location of your wedding.
Name and contact information for your wedding officiant.
- A birth certificate may be necessary to show proof of age.
- If either partner is under 18, one parent or legal guardian must be present.
(If a parent can not be present, due to death, separation, divorce or other
circumstances, proper evidence must be presented for verification.
You will need a certified copy of your birth certificate.)
- If under 16, you can not marry without a court order.
- No residency requirement.
- No wait period to get the license.
- No wait period to be married.
- No blood tests required.
- License expires 65 days from date of issue.
- No marriage by proxy.
- Cousins may marry.
- Officiants include: judges, retired judges, Connecticut state referees, Connecticut
justices of the peace, and ordained or license clergymen (belonging to any state).
If a friend or relative wants to perform your wedding ceremony, you still need
an authorized officiator present to confirm the ceremony and sign the license.
- If you already have a legal marriage from California, Massachusetts, or a foreign country, your marriage will be recognized by Connecticut. There is no real need to remary, unless you think your California marriage could be anulled by the constitutional law change.
- If previously married, the date of divorce or date of spouse’s death must be provided.
(Bring a certified copy of the divorce decree or death certificate.)
- If you and your partner have a Civil Union from Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, or New Jersey, or a comprehensive domestic partnership from California or Oregon, you can marry, provided you marry the same person. If you wish to marry a different person, you must dissolve your Civil Union or comprehensive domestic partnership first, otherwise, you could be charged with bigamy.
- If you and your partner have domestic partnership from a town or county, or from Maine, Washington, or DC, or are registered as Reciprocal Beneficiaries in Hawaii, or have any non-comprehensive governmental domestic partnership status, you can marry. However, if you are entering a marriage with a different person, we recommend that you consult an attorney to determine whether you should formally terminate the domestic partnership first.
- Nearly all international adoptions will be unavailable.
- Bi-national couples who get married will not help the immigration status of the non-citizen, and, in fact, may be harmful.
- Getting married violates the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
- Getting married does not guarantee your access to spousal health insurance benefits.
- Getting married invalidates an existing will.
Links to Official State Instructions
Recognition of Marriage License
The Federal system will not recognize a same-sex marriage because of the DoMA law. You will not be able to file a joint tax return, sponsor a partner for immigration, receive social security widow benefits, etc.
[See our article: U.S. Federal Laws for the Legally Married.]
- In Connecticut, yes.
If a company offers workplace benefits for opposite-sex couples who are married, they must offer those same benefits to same-sex couples. However, unlike opposite-sex couple, same-sex couples must pay federal taxes on those benefits.
- Outside Connecticut, depends, mostly none.
In states other than Connecticut some businesses may recognize the license for benefits.
States that will recognize a Connecticut marriage license include Massachusetts, California, and New York.
[See the boxed information: States Recognizing a Marriage License below.]
However, many states have indicated — via law suits — that they would not recognize the license for benefits, custody, or divorce.
Even if a state does not recognize your legal marriage, and will not grant you a legal divorce, for instance, you may still be held responsible for the obligations of marriage, such as providing financial support, or being held responsible for your former partner’s debts.
- No. Yes. Maybe.
On December 18, 2004 the Boston Globe reported that some of the largest employers in Massachusetts have decided not to extend health benefits to legal same-sex spouses of employees, saying their federally regulated health plans are not bound by the Massachusetts court ruling permitting same-sex marriage. NStar Corp., General Dynamics Corp., FedEx Corp., the Adecco temporary employment agency, and Caritas Christi Health Care are among those that do not provide the same medical benefits that they provide to spouses of opposite-sex married couples.
These employers provide benefits through “self-insured” medical plans, in which the employer, not an insurer, collects the premiums and pays the medical and hospital bills of its workers. These employers said they are not required to cover same-sex spouses because self-insured plans are regulated by federal law, which defines marriage as a union only between a man and a woman. According to Mercer Human Resource Consulting, 66 percent of large U.S. employers with more than 500 workers are self-insured.
Some businesses have welcomed the legal marriage licenses as proof for workplace benefits. However, other businesses, such as the Boston Medical Center, have dropped their domestic partner plans, and now require that couples get legally married to receive benefits.
Warnings: Marriage Law Pitfalls
Married in Canada or Civil Unions in Vermont
- The legally status is not yet clear for same-sex partners to marry in Connecticut if they already have a Vermont “Civil Union.”
- It is clear that same-sex partners may not marry in Connecticut if they already have a Vermont “Civil Union” with different partners. Civil Unions are a marriage-like, legal status under Vermont state law.
- If you have a Civil Union and the relationship is over, you will need to have a dissolution procedure. Courts outside of Vermont have usually not been willing to dissolve a Union. The only clearly established way to dissolve a Union is by living in Vermont for one year and filing for dissolution. Failure to do so before marrying in Connecticut could make you guilty of the crime of bigamy.
- If you were married in Canada, you are legally married no matter where you go. It may be possible to marry the same person again, although it is uncertain what the legal effect would be.
We cannot recommend that non-resident couples get married in Connecticut, because dissolution of a marriage, or for legal separation, cannot be filed unless one of the parties is a resident. Further, a decree for divorce may not be made unless:
There is continuous residency exemption for those have served, or is serving, with the armed forces or merchant marine.
- One of the parties to the marriage has been a resident of Connecticut for at least the 12 months next preceding the date of the filing of the complaint, or next preceding the date of the decree; or
- One of the parties was domiciled in Connecticut at the time of the marriage and returned to Connecticut with the intention of permanently remaining before the filing of the complaint; or
- The cause for the dissolution of the marriage arose after either party moved into Connecticut.
Grounds for Dissolution of Marriage, Civil Union or Legal Separation in Connecticut
- Because many states refuse to recognize a same-sex marriage license, should a couple have a falling out, divorce would likely be impossible unless one of the partners moved to Connecticut.
- Besides the emotional reasons to dissolve a no longer functioning union, there are legal entanglements to consider. For instance, should one of the partners form a new relationship, they would not be able to sign up their new partner for workplace benefits. Most employers require an affidavit that stipulates that the partners are not married to anyone else or have another domestic partner.
- It takes at least six months for a divorce to become final, but generally takes longer. Trying to obtain a divorce in any other state may be impossible. If you live in a state that does not honor your marriage — which may not be determined until requesting something usually triggered by a marriage license — the state courts will also be unlikely to grant you a divorce.
A court decree of dissolution of a marriage or a decree of legal separation shall be granted upon a finding that one of the following causes has occurred:
- The marriage has broken down irretrievably.
- The parties have lived apart by reason of incompatibility for a continuous period of at least the eighteen months immediately prior to the service of the complaint and that there is no reasonable prospect that they will be reconciled.
- Fraudulent contract.
- Wilful desertion for one year with total neglect of duty.
- Seven years’ absence, during all of which period the absent party has not been heard from.
- Habitual intemperance.
- Intolerable cruelty.
- Sentence to imprisonment for life or the commission of any infamous crime involving a violation of conjugal duty and punishable by imprisonment for a period in excess of one year.
- Legal confinement in a hospital or hospitals or other similar institution or institutions, because of mental illness, for at least an accumulated period totaling five years within the period of six years next preceding the date of the complaint.
Partners who are not Connecticut citizens may be married in Connecticut.
Because many state laws forbid recognition of another state’s same-sex legal marriage license, a civil license would have little or no legal meaning.
It is possible that a Connecticut couple would get married, then move elsewhere. While it is certain that the Federal system will refuse to recognize the license, it is now known that most states will likewise refuse to recognize it.
On December 7, 2007, the Rhode Island Supreme Court ruled that the State Family Court cannot recognize the couple’s legal marriage in Massachusetts, at least for purposes of divorce. Cassandra Ormiston and Margaret Chambers, a Rhode Island same-sex couple, married in Fall River, Massachusetts in 2004, and sought a divorce in Rhode Island Family Court in October 2006.
States Recognizing a Marriage License|
New York recognizes same-sex legal marriages, however, it has followed a tortured path in court.
In 2004, then New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer issued an opinion confirming that New York’s marriage recognition rule applies to marriages between same-sex spouses that are lawfully entered into in other jurisdictions. Between then and 2007, New York municipalities including New York City, Albany, Buffalo, Ithaca, Nyack, Rochester, and Brighton, as well as Westchester County, have similarly publicly confirmed that — consistent with the marriage recognition rule — these municipalities will respect marriages of same-sex couples validly performed outside the State.
On June 6, 2006, Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano issued Executive Order No. 3, which provided that “every department, board, agency, and commission of the County of Westchester under my jurisdiction (shall) recognize same sex marriages lawfully entered into outside the State of New York in the same manner as they currently recognize opposite sex marriages” with regard to extending benefits and rights to those couples.
On August 23, 2006, three Westchester County residents — represented by the anti-gay Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) — sued Spano, claiming that he did not have the right to issue the order. On November 30, 2006, Lambda Legal intervened in the case on behalf of Westchester County couple Michael Sabatino and Robert Voorheis, who married in Canada where same-sex couples may legally wed.
March 12, 2007, the New York Supreme Court held that County Executive Spano adhered to New York law in respecting out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples living in Westchester County.
In April 2007, the ADF appealed — again on behalf of three Westchester County taxpayers — to the New York Appellate Division, Second Department.
On December 30, 2008, the New York Appellate Division affirmed dismissal of the case, confirming that Westchester County Executive Spano lawfully recognized out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples.
In March 2009, New York’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, accepted the case for review following petition by the ADF.
Suing states for recognition is a highly expensive process, often taking years. Also, it should not be attempted without consulting national gay organizations with experience and knowledge of individual state law. The possibility of putting more “bad” law — that is, negative rulings — in place is extremely high, which could further entrench anti-marriage, anti-gay laws.