Connecticut State Rep. Mike Lawlor: “We were always clear that our goal was full marriage equality”
April 24, 2009
Connecticut Representative Mike Lawlor was one of the key players in winning civil unions in Connecticut back in 2005. Connecticut accepted the concept pretty quickly - and yesterday Gov. Rell signed legislation to codify last year’s court decision recognizing marriage for lesbian and gay couples. I contacted Rep. Lawlor to ask him to tell the story in his own words about the strategy that ultimately led to marriage equality in Connecticut. Here's what he sent us:
By State Rep. Mike Lawlor (D-CT): The whole process was particularly gratifying in that it was always consensus based. I had a sense, since the first public hearings on this topic in 2001, that marriage equality was inevitable in Connecticut. The Judiciary Committee has been the least partisan committee in a relatively non-partisan legislature, and we have always tried to understand the concerns of all sides and to try as best we can to accommodate suggestions of skeptics. On this issue, there never really were any compelling arguments against full legal recognition of same sex couples. Of course, some folks argued that this would lead to bestiality and polygamy. I think these types of arguments really help our cause, and open-minded folks slowly gravitated to our side as they considered the arguments pro and con. I hope that the process in Connecticut can serve a model for other states. Love Makes a Family did an amazing job reaching out to folks at the grassroots and bringing legislators together with gay and lesbian couples in their districts. When some conservative republicans signaled a willingness to vote for civil unions, but not marriage, they were embraced and thanked for what was at the time a big step. We were always clear that our goal was full marriage equality. But, in my opinion, the distance between nothing and civil unions is much greater than the distance between civil unions and marriage. Ironically, the "separate but equal" civil union status ended up tipping the balance in the Connecticut Supreme Court. At the end of the day, if feels great to be gay and in Connecticut!