(Hartford, Connecticut) The number of same-sex couples entering into civil unions in Connecticut has dropped by more than 50 percent according to new figures released by the state.
Civil unions became legal in Connecticut in 2005. During the first three months 649 couples were united. In all of 2006, however, there were only 729 and in the first 10 months of 2007 only 372 couples had civil unions.
LGBT rights activists and at least one lawmaker believe the reason is a growing concern civil unions fail to offer all of the protections of marriage. Many couples are waiting to see the outcome of a case challenging Connecticut's limitation of marriage to opposite-sex couples.
The state Supreme Court heard arguments in May and has yet to rule.
The previous year a lower court ruled that same-sex couples do not need marriage because they already are entitled to civil unions.
Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, the Boston-based legal group that won same-sex marriage in Massachusetts, appealed the ruling to the high court.
It argued that denying same-sex couples access to marriage violates the state constitution in two ways: gay and lesbian citizens are denied both equal protection and due process.
GLAD said that when lawmakers debated and enacted the civil union statute, they recognized that same-sex couples have the same capacity for love and commitment and the same need for protections under marriage laws as heterosexual couples.
By calling it a civil union rather than a marriage the state is creating a separate but equal entity, GLAD argued.
The state Attorney General's staff argued that the landmark civil-union statute is sufficient.
Connecticut is one of three states which offer civil unions. In the other two, Vermont and New Jersey, legislatures are expected to consider amending their laws to permit same-sex marriage. In January New Hampshire will become the fourth state where same-sex couples can enter civil unions. Gay marriage currently is legal only in Massachusetts.
In Vermont a blue ribbon panel created by the legislature has repeatedly been told at public hearings of inequities in the civil union law that only marriage would remedy.
The committee will submit its report and recommendations in the spring.
In New Jersey a similar committee has heard comparable stories from same-sex couples.
On October 25, 2006, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples must have the rights as opposite-sex married couples but the court left it to the legislature to decide whether that should be done through marriage or civil unions.
Lawmakers chose civil unions, but couples say they still do not have the same rights as married couples.
The legislature is expected to take up the issue next year.
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