Connecticut’s Same-Sex “Marriage” Bill Would Deny Conscience Rights

Wed Mar 11, 2009 - 12:15 pm EST

By Kathleen Gilbert

HARTFORD, Connecticut, March 11, 2009 ( - Connecticut legislators are considering a bill that would codify the state Supreme Court’s decision recognizing same-sex "marriage."  But pro-family advocates are warning that the current form of the bill opens the way to homosexualist curriculum in schools, affirmative-action style legislation based on sexual orientation, and penalties for those who refuse to facilitate same-sex "marriages."

Senate bill 899 implements "the guarantee of equal protection under the Constitution of the state for same-sex couples," as introduced by four Supreme Court judges in October. 

One part of the new legislation repeals Sec. 46a-81r of Connecticut’s General Statutes, which contained the ban on same-sex "marriage."  However, this section also says that Connecticut law cannot be interpreted to condone homosexuality, authorize promotion of homosexuality in schools, permit affirmative-action-style legislation based on sexual orientation, or establish sexual orientation "as a specific and separate cultural classification in society."

The public hearing on S.B. 899 took place Friday. (To view the legislation, go to:

Peter Wolfgang, executive director of the Family Institute of Connecticut (FIC), said in an email to constituents that the new law was not mere "legislative housekeeping," but instead opened wide the doors to promoting homosexuality.

"We must amend Section 17 to salvage that law [Sec. 46a-81r] and stop the pro same-sex ‘marriage’ agenda from being forced on children in the public schools," said Wolfgang.

While the bill exempts clergy from participating in same-sex "marriage" according to religious belief, religious and pro-family advocates are alarmed that there is no exemption for non-clergy individuals involved in the marriage process, such as Justices of the Peace.

"The negative effect of same-sex marriage on religious liberty and rights of conscience involve far more than the question of whether clergy will be forced to perform same-sex weddings," Wolfgang said in testimony submitted to the committee.

Representatives of the Connecticut Catholic Conference at the hearing exhorted lawmakers to expand the religious discrimination protection.

"Same-sex couples have their liberties protected fully. Religious people are wondering, ‘How is this going to affect me?’" said Deacon David Reynolds at the hearing.  "A situation has been created ... where state policy seriously conflicts with the religious beliefs of a large number of the citizens of the state."

Sen. John Kissel disagreed, suggesting that a law preventing a Catholic caterer from serving guests at a same-sex "marriage" could also be used by a Protestant baker who doesn’t want to sell a cake to a Catholic father for his son’s first communion. "It could just as easily turn against each and every Catholic in the state of Connecticut," he said.

Robin Fretwell Wilson, a professor of law and a Law Alumni Faculty Fellow at Washington & Lee University, foresaw trouble brewing with the legislation.

"Is same-sex marriage a way to provide benefits to same-sex couples? Or will same-sex marriage be misused as a hammer to punish traditional religious communities who do not have progressive views on marriage? The nation will be watching Connecticut for an answer," Wilson wrote in a Hartford Courant editorial Friday.

Wilson pointed out that the Massachusetts governor’s chief legal counsel told justices of the peace that they must "follow the law, whether you agree with it or not," and otherwise face a fine up to $50,000 - a fate that could easily fall to Connecticutians as the bill stands.

Wilson called the legislature’s failure to address the issue "unconscionable." 

"It deprives the citizens of Connecticut of an honest conversation about whether we are a plural enough society to allow religious dissenters to live alongside same-sex couples, without depriving those couples of their civil rights," she continued.  "The legislature would do well to lead this national conversation rather than burying its head in the sand."

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