[IMC Boston-Radio] BTL Q&A 3-14-05: Connecticut Set to Become 2nd State to Pass Same-Sex Civil Union Bill

Scott Harris sharris at snet.net
Wed Mar 16 23:32:19 PST 2005

Between the Lines Q&A
A weekly column featuring progressive viewpoints
on national and international issues
under-reported in mainstream media
for release March 14, 2005

Distributed by Squeaky Wheel Productions

Connecticut Set to Become
2nd State to Pass
Same-Sex Civil Union Bill

Interview with Anne Stanback,
president of the group Love Makes a Family,
conducted by Scott Harris

Listen in RealAudio:
(Needs RealOne player or RealPlayer)

Connecticut's state legislature is now considering a bill that could
make the state the second in the nation, following Vermont, to adopt
civil union protections for same-sex couples. Backers of the legislation
predicted final passage after the powerful Judiciary Committee endorsed
the measure in a 25-to-13 vote and Republican Connecticut Gov. Jodi Rell
openly gave her support.

Civil unions provide same sex couples with many of the same rights and
responsibilities as traditional marriage, including a voice in medical
care issues and legal standing to inherit money and property. But civil
unions are not recognized across state borders or by the federal
government. Whatever the final outcome of the legislation, Connecticut's
courts will also be weighing in on the issue after deciding a lawsuit
filed by seven gay and lesbian couples after they were denied a
Connecticut marriage license in August.

A coalition backing gay marriage in the state originally opposed the
civil union bill, but changed course when supportive legislators
promised that they would not abandon the fight for full marriage rights
for gay couples. Between The Lines' Scott Harris spoke with Anne
Stanback, president of Love Makes a Family, Connecticut's main coalition
working for same-sex marriage equality. Stanback explains the shifting
debate on the legislation and why she views gay marriage as a civil
rights issue.

Anne Stanback: The original bill that was raised in the Judiciary
Committee and had a public hearing back on Feb. 7, I believe, was a bill
entitled, "Marriage Equality." It was a pretty straightforward marriage
bill that would allow same-sex couples to have access to all the rights
and protections of civil marriage in the state.

It had a wonderful public hearing. There actually wasn't  a single
person on either side, I don't think, that said that they supported
civil union, because all the people who were there  to speak in favor of
the bill supported marriage and the supporters didn't support civil
unions because they didn't think it was the same as marriage. The
opponents said very clearly that they opposed civil union because they
do view it as the same as marriage. So it was sort of an ironic

The vote that happened in the Judiciary Committee was on an amendment to
strip out the marriage language and actually turn that marriage bill
into a bill that allowed for civil unions, very similar to what passed
in Vermont five years ago. And it did pass overwhelmingly ,  and I
certainly recognize that that is a huge step forward in terms of the
support that we have in the Judiciary Committee. But probably from our
perspective, what was most heartening about that debate and that vote,
was first of all, the very sound defeat of two DOMA amendments -- the
so-called Defense of Marriage Act, that defines marriage as between a
man and a woman. By over a 2-to-1 margin both, what they call a
statutory DOMA and a constitutional amendment were defeated. And that
was great news and I think showed that Connecticut is really very
different from much of the rest of the country based on what we saw in
the last election cycle.

But as optimistic as anything we heard that day were the strong
statements of support by many of the legislators, many who voted for the
civil union bill and one who voted against it, all saying that this is
not equal, this is not enough. They pledged to stand with us to continue
the fight for full equality and for full civil marriage.

So, after that vote, Love Makes a Family's board met again. We had
opposed the civil union legislation, but we decided that we would not
stand in the way of this legislation and withdrew our active opposition.

Between The Lines: Anne Stanback, what are the essential features in
this civil union bill approved by the Judiciary Committee in terms of a
partner's ability to make decisions in medical issues or inheritance, or
other issues that are primarily addressed in marriage?

Anne Stanback: There are a whole range of things that the civil union
bill would cover, things like the automatic right to make medical
decisions for your partner or your spouse if they are incapacitated or
to have hospital visitation. The right to a whole range of employment
benefits everything from employee health insurance on one's partner's or
spouse's health care plan, to the ability to use family and medical
leave to take care of your partner or a family member.

There's significant tax benefits, particularly tax benefits that deal
with home ownership, inheritance rights, pension rights -- much of this
can be covered under federal law, which civil unions don't cover -- but
there are definitely significant advantages that civil unions will

Between The Lines: Anne Stanback, what's the significance nationally of
what it looks like the Connecticut state legislature is about to do in
voting in a civil union bill? Might it mean that Connecticut joins
California as the only state where the legislature voted in a civil
union bill?

Anne Stanback: I think it does. And I think that we know that both the
legislature and the judicial branch have their roles to play in civil
rights movements. Many of the marriage fights that are going forward
around the country, with the most prospects of success are doing so
through the courts. It's very important that we have some wins in the
legislature. I do know that California is moving forward with marriage
legislation. I think the fact that Connecticut is doing this, while it's
not everything we want and it's not the full equality and protections of
marriage, it is an important message. I think that it is going to be a
steppingstone to marriage.

As Evan Wolfsen, who is one of the leaders of this movement often says,
"wins trump losses" and yeah, there were losses in the election of 2004,
but there are going to be significant wins in this next year. And I
think that they are going to actually carry much more power than some of
these constitutional amendments (banning gay marriage) that were simply
reiterating laws that had been passed in state legislatures.

I think the future looks optimistic. We can't let down our guard, but we
have more and more fair-minded Americans who understand that this is
simply a matter of fairness and of civil rights.

Contact Love Makes a Family by calling (860) 525-7777 or visit their
website at http://www.lmfct.org

Scott Harris is executive producer of Between The Lines, which can be
heard on more than 35 radio stations and in RealAudio and MP3 on our
website at http://www.btlonline.org. This interview excerpt was featured
on the award-winning, syndicated weekly radio newsmagazine, Between The
Lines for the week ending March 18, 2005. This Between The Lines Q&A was
compiled by Scott Harris and Anna Manzo.



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