Today the Connecticut Supreme Court overturned the state’s ban on same-sex marriage in Kerrigan v. Commisioner of Public Health. Four years ago, eight same-sex couples sued the state of Connecticut, arguing that the statutory prohibition against same-sex marriage violated their rights to substantive due process and equal protection under the state constitution. The trial court held that because the state allowed civil unions, the plaintiffs had not suffered a "constitutionally cognizable harm", and therefore found for the state.
In finding for the plaintiffs on appeal, the Connecticut Supreme Court concluded that:
in light of the history of pernicious discrimination faced by gay men and lesbians, and because the institution of marriage carries with it a status and significance that the newly created classification of civil unions does not embody, the segregation of heterosexual and homosexual couples into separate institutions constitutes a cognizable harm. We also conclude that (1) our state scheme discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation, (2) for the same reasons that classifications predicated on gender are considered quasi-suspect for purposes of the equal protection provisions of the United States constitution, sexual orientation constitutes a quasi-suspect classification for purposes of the equal protection provisions of the state constitution, and, therefore, our statutes discriminating against gay persons are subject to heightened or intermediate judicial scrutiny, and (3) the state has failed to provide sufficient justification for excluding same sex couples from the institution of marriage.
The Kerrigan ruling makes Connecticut the third state in the country, after Massachusetts (Goodridge) and California (In Re Marriage Cases) to allow same-sex marriage. Here in New Hampshire, the state has allowed for civil unions since January 1, 2008, and is one of nine states to offer some degree of domestic partnership or civil union.