By one vote, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that the state’s law requiring same-sex couples to enter into civil unions rather than marriages was unconstitutional. Connecticut now becomes the third state—after Massachusetts and California—to recognize same-sex marriages.
Connecticut employers must now alter their employment policies and benefits to match the patchwork of federal and state laws that this decision creates. All federal laws, most notably the Act ( ), will still not recognize gay marriage. The federal Defense of Marriage Act overrode previous that deferred to states for the definition of marriage.
Connecticut’s leave law covers employers with 75 or more employers. The FMLA applies to businesses with 50 or more. Under state law, employees may take up to 16 weeks of unpaid leave in any 24-month period for their own serious health condition or that of a spouse, parent or dependent child. The FMLA provides 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period.
Both laws require employees to have been on the job for one year, but Connecticut’s law only requires that the employee have worked 1,000 hours during the year preceding leave while the FMLA requires 1,250 hours of work in that period for eligibility. Both laws provide the same leave for both parents for the birth or adoption of a child.
Since this ruling involves only state law, it cannot be appealed to the federal judiciary. Only legislation in the form of a new law or state constitutional amendment could overturn this decision. Few believe either is likely. In fact, State Senator Michael Lawlor, head of the Judiciary Committee, released a statement that he expects the legislature to codify the Supreme Court’s decision sometime next year.
Background: Eight couples in the state had attempted to obtain marriage licenses in 2004 and sued when they were denied. After losing in the lower courts, the case came before the Connecticut Supreme Court, which sided with the couples by a 4-3 vote.
Connecticut Supreme Court Justice Richard N. Palmer wrote the majority decision, stating, “Interpreting our state constitutional provisions in accordance with firmly established equal protection principles leads inevitably to the conclusion that gay persons are entitled to marry the otherwise qualified same sex partner of their choice.”
Californians will vote next month on a ballot initiative that would reinstate that state’s gay marriage ban.
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