Opponents and supporters of same-sex marriage are bracing for another battle at the Capitol while trying to win over the hearts and minds of the state's residents.
The two Democratic leaders of the General Assembly's judiciary committee said Wednesday that they intend to introduce a bill legalizing gay marriage, even though Gov. M. Jodi Rell has announced her intention to veto it.
Committee co-chairman Rep. Michael Lawlor, D-East Haven, said lawmakers have many other important issues on their agenda and conceded that passage of a gay-marriage law could take more than just this legislative session. "This is a process where you have to count votes,'' he said, "but votes are influenced by public opinion.''
And public opinion, Lawlor said, is shifting in favor of same-sex marriage, especially among those younger than 40. "This is inevitable,'' he said.
Those on the other side vow to fight it. Brian Brown, executive director of the Family Institute of Connecticut and one of the leading voices against same-sex marriage, called for an amendment to the state constitution defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Acknowledging that winning legislative approval for such a measure is highly unlikely, he urged a nonbinding referendum on the matter.
"We need the people's voice to be heard,'' Brown said during a press conference at the Legislative Office Building Wednesday morning. He was flanked by a handful of legislators who support the group's mission.
"Isn't that what civil unions were supposed to address?'' he asked. "Now they want that name as well. As someone who's been married 53 years, I resent it.''
The definition of marriage "goes back to Christ'' and shouldn't be tampered with, DeLuca said.
Two years ago, the legislature made history by permitting same-sex couples to enter into civil unions, becoming only the second state, after Vermont, to do so. While granting same-sex couples nearly all of the rights and responsibilities available to married couples, civil unions are not recognized by most other states or the federal government.
Many gay-rights activists view civil unions as an acceptable compromise that has benefited many couples. But they also view the law as inherently unfair and have filed a lawsuit seeking full-fledged marriage. The lawsuit is pending in the state Supreme Court. Currently, only Massachusetts allows marriage between same-sex couples.
At a boisterous and crowded press conference in a neighboring hearing room hosted by the gay-rights advocacy group Love Makes a Family, bill supporters offered personal stories to illustrate what they say is the need for a change in the law.
Becca Lazarus, a 12-year-old who lives in Windsor with her two fathers, said her friends wonder why her parents can't marry. "They don't understand what a civil union is,'' Lazarus said during the press conference. "but everyone knows what marriage is.''
Alexandrina Sergio, a Glastonbury grandmother whose daughter is gay, wrote a letter to Rell, asking her to reconsider her promised veto.
"I ask you to support marriage equality for same-sex couples,'' she wrote. "History will bless you. Alistair [Sergio's new grandson] will not have to question why in the United States of America he is not considered good enough for the family recognition that embrace other children.''
Sen. Andrew McDonald, D-Stamford, said there is no mechanism for the advisory vote advocated by Brown. Besides, he added, most lawmakers already know where voters stand on the issue. "We hear from our constituents all the time,'' he said, noting that he won re-election with 62 percent of the vote in November, despite his staunch support of same-sex marriage.
In Lawlor's view, this is not a debate about marriage but rather about the public's view of homosexuality. "Times have changed, this law will change with the times,'' he said. "It's our goal to make it happen this year.''
WHERE STATES STAND
Vermont: Became the first state in the nation to permit gays and lesbians to enter into civil unions in 2000.
Connecticut: Adopted a law in 2005 allowing civil unions.
New Jersey: Approved a civil-union bill in late 2006 that will take effect Feb. 22.
California: Permits same-sex couples to enter into domestic partnerships.
Massachusetts: Only state that permits same-sex couples to marry.
44 states: Have passed laws or constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage.
Contact Daniela Altimari at email@example.com