On Tuesday, the Connecticut Legislature’s Judiciary Committee concluded deliberations on a bill on same-sex marriage. Disappointingly, after a month of heated debate and impassioned speeches by Connecticut residents, the result has been a watered-down version of the original proposal.
Rather than becoming the first state to legalize same-sex marriages — or grant homosexuals the rights to marriage-like “civil unions,” as was done in Vermont and California — Connecticut legislators have missed their chance to break new ground on one of the most actively debated gay rights issues.
The subject has inflamed both religious conservatives and queer activists in recent years. On the one hand, conservatives argue that marriage has a special, sacred place in society and can only be defined as the union of a man and woman. Gay rights activists, on the other hand, have argued that failing to support same-sex marriage is tantamount to anti-homosexuality and a step backward for the gay rights movement.
The most logical approach lies somewhere between these two impassioned but extreme views. To the extent that the state should be concerned, a marriage is first and foremost a way of legally recognizing committed love between two people. While it would be an unprecedented step, lawmakers should acknowledge that in today’s society that committed love can be defined and recognized as existing between two people of the same sex.
The Legislature has shown itself to be a progressive body in the recent past. Nearly two years ago, the Connecticut House passed Bill 5830, making it one of only seven states to allow same-sex adoption.
In many ways, the gay marriage decision is not as difficult as the choice to allow same-sex adoption. If two gay people are qualified under the law to assume the monumental responsibility of controlling the life of a third party — an adopted child — they should certainly be qualified to decide that they love each other enough to spend their lives together. And since the state has already voted in favor of the former, it would seem logical that it should approve the latter.
Of course, since Connecticut would have been the first state to legalize gay marriage had it passed such a measure, lawmakers proceeded with understandable trepidation. As usual, the most fervent opposition to the bill came from religious groups, who deploy as their chief argument doctrine that adamantly condemns homosexual behavior.
It is not our place to opine on the validity of church doctrine, and it is not the place of the Legislature to do so either. Citizens who oppose gay marriage for religious reasons are certainly entitled to do so. But as a secular body, the Legislature has a responsibility to divorce itself from all religions and pass reasoned laws that are right for the state as a whole.
In today’s society, our lawmakers and judges have decided that there should be nothing inherently heterosexual about employment, adoption or holding public office. Connecticut should have made marriage the next antiquated barrier to fall.