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Lawmakers pull same-sex marriage bill

  Legal Business  -   POSTED: 2007/05/12 21:26

Legislative advocates for expanded gay rights withdrew a pending bill Friday that would have provided marriage rights for same-sex couples.
The decision came in the afternoon, when lawmakers realized that while the bill might pass the Senate, there weren't enough votes in the House and Gov. M. Jodi Rell promised to veto it. The bill will die on the House calendar. On Monday, the state Supreme Court hears a challenge from gay-rights groups to the 2005 civil union law that provides civil-rights protections for same-sex couples.

"We obviously asked leadership not to call the bill," said Rep. Michael P. Lawlor, D-East Haven, co-chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

"The bottom line is we certainly had a lot more votes than what we've had, but it's not a majority and quite a few people we've talked to in the last week or so said personally they'd support it and sooner or later it will pass, but it's too soon."

Lawlor said he was slightly surprised that the so-called gay marriage bill won easy passage in his committee, recalling that in 2003 the civil union legislation that was signed into law in 2005 was defeated in the Judiciary panel.

"At this moment the marriage-equality bill seems to be going in the right direction," Lawlor said. "People are saying 'we're getting there, give us a little more time, we want to discuss it a little more.' "

He said that the effort for the legislation ended Friday in part to clear the table for the Supreme

Court hearing Monday. A possible option for the court, Lawlor said, would be to send the entire issue back to the General Assembly to review the rationale for providing the expanded civil rights for gay couples, while calling it something other than marriage.
"I think we'd have a hard time explaining it a second time around," said Lawlor, who is gay.

Anne Stanback, president of the umbrella gay-rights group called Love Makes a Family, said Friday that she had "mixed emotions" about pulling the bill from floor debate.

"We are disappointed that after coming so far we did not quite have the votes we needed in the House to advance the bill this session," Stanback said in a statement.

"However, we can't help but feel encouraged by the significant progress we have made in the two years since the civil union law passed," she said. "We still must win those remaining votes in the Legislature, as well as convince Gov. Rell that treating all Connecticut families fairly is the right thing to do."

Sen. Andrew J. McDonald, D-Stamford, co-chairman of the Judiciary Committee, agreed that support is growing for the marriage-equality bill.

"We achieved an incredible benchmark this year by passing the bill out of committee — a step that many believed we would not be able to accomplish," said McDonald, who is gay, recalling the 27-15 vote of April 12.

The lawmakers' decision came the same day that opponents of gay marriage, led by the Family Institute of Connecticut, announced a push to combat "anti-family activists" and an anticipated vote next week in the House.

"They are trying to push this through quickly before people find out and make their voices heard," the Family Institute announced in an e-mail message.

Later Friday, Brian S. Brown, executive director of the Family Institute, called the withdrawal of the legislation "a massive victory for marriage protection."

The group has scheduled a May 23 rally against same-sex marriage outside the Capitol at 10 a.m.


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