Connecticut Hands Out Civil Union Licenses
DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Debbie Elliott.
As of today, gay couples in Connecticut can enter into a civil union, providing all the legal rights and responsibilities of marriage under state law. Connecticut is the second US state to provide civil unions for same-sex couples. Av Harris of member station WNPR reports.
AV HARRIS reporting:
On this chilly but bright early autumn morning, Christopher and Scott Emerson Pace(ph) went into the town offices in Kent near the New York state border. Town clerk Darlene Brady(ph) helps Christopher and Scott fill out a one-page state-issued license for a civil union.
Ms. DARLENE BRADY (Town Clerk, Kent): This is basic information...
Unidentified Man: OK.
Ms. BRADY: ...for both of you.
Unidentified Man: OK.
Ms. BRADY: So whomever wants to be--whichever side, it doesn't matter.
Unidentified Man: OK.
Ms. BRADY: And then we can type up the license for you.
(Soundbite of typewriter)
HARRIS: This is a day Christopher Emerson Pace says the two men have been looking forward to.
Mr. CHRISTOPHER EMERSON PACE: Well, we've been together for 14 years, and we just didn't want to--we didn't feel the need to wait any longer. You know, it was important for us to secure those legal rights as soon as possible.
HARRIS: These rights include the ability to own property together, hospital visitation and the right to make medical decisions on the other's behalf. Aside from these legal benefits, Scott Emerson Pace says this is also an emotional day.
Mr. SCOTT EMERSON PACE: Well, it's nice to be able to stand in front of all of our families and friends as they have done in their weddings and declare our love and commitment to one another.
Ms. BRADY: So I need for you to sign as party one. That would be for you. OK. Here's that.
Unidentified Man: Great.
Ms. BRADY: You are all set. Thank you for patience.
Unidentified Man: Great. Thank you.
HARRIS: Christopher and Scott Emerson Pace are now entitled to all of the rights and responsibilities under Connecticut state law that, until today, were reserved for married couples.
Unidentified Woman: Hi, honey. How was your walk? Did you go show Aunt Maryellen(ph) and Uncle Cal(ph) Bella(ph)? Go ahead.
KAILEY(ph): A, B, C, D, E, F, G...
HARRIS: Eileen Ego(ph) and Corrine Frost(ph) and their daughter Kailey live in Griswold on the eastern edge of the state. They plan to spend Saturday as a normal family day going to the zoo and watching the Yankees-Red Sox game on TV.
Unidentified Woman: Nice job. Yeah. Say, `Go Yankees.'
KAILEY: Go Yankees.
Unidentified Woman: Yeah.
HARRIS: Eileen Ego and Corrine Frost have been together for 13 years. They have another child on the way. Eileen Ego says they don't want to enter into a civil union because they still won't have the same rights as married couples under federal law.
Ms. EILEEN EGO: Things like Social Security benefits, inheritance rights, capital gains taxes. If something were to happen to me, Corrine could be taxed on 50 percent of the value of our house. She's a stay-at-home mom, so that would basically cause her to lose the house.
HARRIS: Ego says she and Corrine's decision is also based on what the two women want for their children.
Ms. EGO: When Kailey goes to school, it's important for her to say that her parents are married, too. We're very much a family like any other, you know, mom, dad, two kids. We're a mom, mom and two kids, and I think it's important for her to be able to see herself as equal to her friends.
HARRIS: Ego predicts gay marriage will be approved in Connecticut within five years. That may be optimistic. True, Connecticut became the first state where lawmakers passed civil unions without a court order to do so, and the bill passed by a fairly wide margin and was signed by Republican Governor Jodi Rell, but only after language was inserted defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Gay rights opponents like Brian Brown of the conservative Connecticut Family Institute say the establishment of civil unions marks a sad day for the state.
Mr. BRIAN BROWN (Connecticut Family Institute): What the state has done by passing this bill is to essentially turn its back on the social science evidence that's been amassed over the last 30 years that shows clearly children do best with both a mother and a father. Confusing marriage with any other institution, creating a mimic of marriage, undermines the very nature of what marriage is.
HARRIS: Brown is vowing to lead a fight to pass a constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage and civil unions. For NPR News, I'm Av Harris in Hartford.