American Foundation for Equal Rights

Marriage News Blog

Marriage Equality In Connecticut Turns 4

November 12 marks the four year anniversary since marriage was legalized in Connecticut.

Marriage News Watch takes a look back at how Connecticut won the freedom to marry, and what’s happened since.

Just as in other states, a campaign to win marriage equality in Connecticut was a combination of sound legal strategy and a lot of patience.

It started in 2004, when Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders filed a lawsuit challenging the state’s discriminatory laws. It took nearly two years for a the case to reach its first judgement. And initially, our side lost.

The Superior Court ruled in 2006 that the only difference between marriage and civil union is the name. And because Connecticut had civil unions since 2005, the judge reasoned, that was close enough to marriage. In essence, the court ruled that civil unions are equal enough.

But we know that’s not true. When you look at the facts, it’s clear that relegating gay and lesbian couples to a second-class status is far from equal. There are real legal consequences — in addition to emotional harm.

That’s a finding that multiple state commissions would reach over the next few years, as well as the District Court in California in the Prop 8 case. Knowing they were right, GLAD appealed the ruling. They presented arguments before the Connecticut Supreme Court, and after another year and a half, they won.

The Supreme Court wrote that civil unions “require us to apply one set of constitutional principles to gay persons and another to all others. The guarantee of equal protection under the law … forbids us from doing so.”

And that was that. The ruling came down on October 10, less than a month before Prop 8 would be voted into law. And the state issued its first marriage licenses to LGBT couples on November 12, 2008.

Not surprisingly, public support for marriage has only increased over the last decade. Nine years ago, 44 percent of Connecticut residents supported marriage, with 50 percent opposed. By 2008, when the Supreme Court legalized marriage, those numbers effectively switched. And today, we have 55 percent support and 33 percent opposed.

And a 2005 report from the Williams Institute estimated that the first three years of marriage in Connecticut would result in a net gain of $3.1 million in taxes. That report was authored, in part, by Professor Lee Badgett, whom several years later would serve as a witness in AFER’s case to overturn Prop 8.

Of course, our work still isn’t over. The federal government doesn’t recognize the marriages of the thousands of gay and lesbian couples who have married in Connecticut.

That’s why AFER remains committed to bringing about full federal marriage equality for all Americans. Visit us over at for more on our case, and to help us expand the freedom to marry from coast to coast.

Pictured: GLAD plaintiffs Barbara and Robin Levine-Ritterman were the first same-sex couple to be issued a marriage license in Connecticut.