In 1993, Michael Morand ’87 DIV ’93 introduced a controversial piece of legislation calling for the recognition of same sex marriages and civil unions. Now, a decade after that ordinance amendment was rejected by a 15-14 aldermanic vote, Morand’s successor in Ward 1, Ben Healey ’04, has submitted a similar proposal.
Morand remembers the atmosphere in the Aldermanic Chambers of City Hall on the evening of Nov. 3, 1993, when he first introduced the legislation.
“The final meeting when the vote occurred was not a pretty scene,” said Morand, now associate vice president for New Haven and state affairs at his alma mater. “The opponents were not only vocal but nasty.”
Morand, along with a band of supportive colleagues, asked the Board of Aldermen to recognize same sex marriages and civil unions, complete with all the rights, privileges, and allowances given to heterosexual marriages.
“We had very moving testimony about the importance of such a measure to many citizens in our community,” said Morand, who also led the famous campus movement to divest from apartheid South Africa during his time as a student. “And unfortunately, we also saw a fair amount of bigotry, and the measure failed by one vote.”
On Monday, Healey submitted a similar proposal to the Board of Aldermen, and there is hope from the sponsor and his nine co-signatories on the Board that times have changed and the measure will be more palatable to voters than in 1993. According to Healey’s count, the majority of aldermen required to pass the piece of legislation support it.
“I think it is the right thing to do by the citizens of the city and the state and I think we’re going to win,” said Healey.
Conversations with Morand during the summer, along with the current prominence of the issue at the state level, prompted Healey’s decision to introduce the idea, he said.
The amendment would allow any two persons of age to register their “committed relationship” with the registrar of vital statistics in the city and receive a certificate for this government-sanctioned arrangement.
“In this day and age, we need to acknowledge what we need to acknowledge, which is those relationships,” said Ward 12 Alderwoman Shirley Ellis-West, a co-sponsor of the ordinance amendment. “It is now 2003, and I believe it’s time we revisit some issues that are just about being fair. Many of us feel it’s time to do the right thing.”
In Connecticut, State Rep. Michael P. Lawlor, of East Haven’s 99th assembly district, is pushing for legal recognition of same-sex marriages, but is far from getting such legislation past his fellow House members.
Lawlor could not be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.
Despite what some might perceive as a change in attitude, the passage of Healey’s current amendment will face entrenched opposition.
In 1993, religious figures from all over the city flocked to City Hall to oppose the proposed legislation by holding signs and shouting slogans, and the same people who disapproved 10 years ago are likely to vote nay again.
Ward 25 Alderwoman Nancy Ahearn said that when the amendment comes before the full Board in a few weeks, she plans to vote the same way she did 10 years ago.
“I voted against it, as did a majority of the aldermen,” she said, saying she thought this issue was under the purview of the state, not the city. “I’m not sure that I’m ready to think of marriage as anything but between a man and a woman.”
Ahearn, who counts many homosexuals among her respected friends, said that although “love is wonderful wherever you find it,” existing state laws protect gays and lesbians sufficiently and the passage of this amendment would present complications.
Board of Alderman President Jorge Perez, who was present in the chambers in November 1993, also voiced opposition to the amendment.
“I voted against it ten years ago and I’m going to vote against it again,” said Perez, denying claims that opposition to the issue came especially from the Hispanic religious community as some suggested.
Ward 14 Alderwoman Robin Kroogman, who called the discourse on that night in 1993 “gay-bashing at its worst,” expressed guarded hope for a successful result this time around.
“Times are different,” Kroogman said. “And it’s time for this.”