The Rise and Fall of Civil Unions: Lessons From the Connecticut Legislature's Abandonment of Gay and Lesbian Citizens

Susan Thomas

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    On April 20, 2005, Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell signed into law "An Act Concerning Civil Unions" (Public Act No. 05-10, 2005). That Act did two things: First, it afforded to qualifying same-sex couples many of the rights and benefits that the state makes available to married heterosexual couples. Second, it "defended" heterosexual marriage by defining marriage as involving one man and one woman. Although it might seem that the legislature was moving in an obviously correct direction, its decision to establish a statutory scheme consigning same-sex couples to civil unions was integral to the ideological exclusion of gays and lesbians from marriage and, thereby, implied that they are unfit for family life. The Democrats' and Republicans' focus was on the formal equality guaranteed by the civil union legislation. But the heart of the legislation is disenfranchisement. Connecticut lawmakers placed the stamp of legitimacy on a policy that officially excluded lesbians and gays from full membership in civil society. To many gay and lesbian citizens in Connecticut, it was a slap in the face and awakened a realization that lawmakers' professed egalitarian ideals and the realities of defining who belonged to their communities may not coincide.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)315-329
    Number of pages15
    JournalJOURNAL OF HOMOSEXUALITY
    Volume58
    Issue number3
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2011

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