Friday, October 10, 2008
Connecticut became the third state in the union today to declare that its state constitution prohibits limiting the right to marry to different sex couples. In Kerrigan v. Comm'r of Pub. Health, the Connecticut Supreme Court held 4-3 (the dissents can be found here, here, and here) that gays and lesbians had suffered a history of pernicious discrimination; that just as for gender under the federal constitution, sexual orientation was a quasi-suspect class; that classifications on that basis warranted heightened scrutiny; and that the state had not offered an important enough interest to warrant the classification.
As Paul noted in May when the California Supreme Court decision came down, this has significant employment law consequences. It will impact benefits issues, and it reinforces the state's employment discrimination laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in both the public and private sector.
Just a couple of hours ago, I was listening to a speech by Shannon Minter of the National Center for Lesbian Rights speak on this topic, a bit nervously remarking that no one knew why it was taking the Connecticut Supreme Court so long to decide the issue. He also noted that people interested in the issue should keep their eyes on the fight in California over Proposition 8, the initiative drive to amend the California Constitution to overturn that state's supreme court decision. Additionally, the Iowa Supreme Court is considering the same sex marriage issue in Varnum v. Brien, which is set for argument December 9.