The day the landmark court decision legalizing same-sex marriage was released, Robin and Barbara Levine-Ritterman were just one of the happy couples that planned on getting married. As they celebrated the decision earlier this month, they said they just didn’t know when or where the ceremony will be held.
On Tuesday the ‘when’ started to come into focus for Levine-Ritterman and thousands of other gay couples in the state seeking to get married.
Bennett Klein, a senior attorney with Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders or GLAD, said Tuesday that there’s a lot of confusion out there about when exactly couples can go down to their town halls and get a marriage license. He said Nov. 10 is the first day a final judgment can be entered in the case.
Klein speculated that sometime during that same week perhaps after the Veteran’s Day holiday, new marriage licenses will be issued by the Department of Public Health to the Town Clerks across the state.
Meanwhile, Klein said his office is receiving a number of questions about the logistics of same-sex marriage.
One of the most common questions his office receives from folks is: “If you are in a civil union currently, can you get married?” The answer to this is “Yes,” he said.
The other question frequently received by his office is: “What is the status of civil unions in Connecticut today?”
“Civil unions are still valid in Connecticut,” Klein said. “The Supreme Court’s decision did not address the validity of the civil union law in any way.”
Klein added that couples may continue to enter into civil unions. It’s up to the legislature to decide how to address the legal status of civil unions in the future, he said.
On Oct. 10, the day the court decision was released, Sen. Andrew McDonald, D-Stamford, said the legislature will have to debate whether there’s any reason to keep the legal status of civil unions. He said he expects the Judiciary Committee to hold public hearings to examine the issue.
He said he doesn’t know any, but it’s possible that there are couples that don’t want to be married and prefer a civil union.
McDonald said the legislature will be obligated to repeal the language in the civil union law that says marriage is between a man and a woman.
Klein said Tuesday that one of the other questions his office fields is “What do I gain by marrying?”
“The court made clear that marriage is a status in society that has unparallel respect and dignity,” Klein said. “There are benefits to marriage that come just from being able to say you are married.”
Not everybody understands what a civil union is, he said. Not all hospitals were allowing the names of both parents in a civil union to go on a birth certificate, he said.
Klein said since civil unions were enacted by the legislature three years ago they’ve heard similar stories from couples across the state.
Anne Stanback, executive director of Love Makes a Family, said there are an estimated 1,700 civil unions in the state. She said she bets a majority of them will change their civil union to marriage.
For those same-sex couples currently in civil unions all they have to do in order to get married is obtain a marriage license after the final judgment in the case is issued sometime after Nov. 10. Klein said there’s no need to dissolve a civil union, if the couple wants to enter into a marriage.
Department of Public Health spokesman William Gerrish said Tuesday that his agency has been working with the Attorney General’s office in drafting the new marriage licenses. He said they’ve been sent out to the vendor for printing and may arrive as soon as tomorrow.
According Gerrish the new marriage license will give couples the option of “bride, groom, or spouse.”
Klein and Maureen Murphy will conduct a seminar for same-sex couples 7 p.m. tonight at Exley Science Center on the campus of Wesleyan University in Middletown. If you’re unable to attend the seminar and still have questions the number for GLAD’s hotline is 1-800-455-GLAD.
GLAD has also created a “How to Get Married in Connecticut” guidebook.
Here’s what Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s office had to say about the implementation of the court’s decision.