Bristol’s reaction to the legalization of gay marriage by the Connecticut Supreme Court Friday ranged from delight to disappointment.
The 4-3 decision to make Connecticut the third state to allow same sex marriage throws aside the civil union compromise that Gov. Jodi Rell and the legislature agreed on several years ago and opens the door for thousands of gay couples to marry.
“It’s the law now and I don’t have any choice except to abide by it,” said state Sen. Tom Colapietro, a Bristol Democrat who has represented the 31st District since 1992.
Colapietro said he “never voted for” gay marriage because “neither my heart nor my stomach would let me vote for marriage between a man and a man and a woman and a woman.”
But, he said, now that court has ruled, he agrees with Gov. Jodi Rell that there’s no alternative except to honor the decision.
“Their decision is final. We live in a democracy and that’s how they’ve ruled,” said state Rep. Frank Nicastro, a Bristol Democrat from the 79th District who has always opposed gay marriage.
Nicastro said that given the narrow margin of the state Supreme Court ruling, there are clearly “still a lot of questions” and some “very strong concern” surrounding the issue of gay marriage.
State Rep. Bill Hamzy, a Plymouth Republican from the 78th District, said he believes an issue such as gay marriage should be dealt with by the legislature or by referendum.
“It goes to the heart of our social fabric,” Hamzy said.
He said that lawmakers have twice in recent years approved measures that show they believe in the traditional definition of marriage, when they backed same sex adoption and civil unions.
“It’s unfortunate that four judges overruled a majority of the legislature,” Hamzy said.
With the ruling, he said, there’s sure to be a push for passage of a ballot question about whether to hold a constitutional convention that could perhaps overturn the court’s decision.
“That issue will be a lot more prominent” in the weeks remaining before the Nov. 4 election, Hamzy said.
He said he supports holding a convention, which can take up whatever issues it wants, in part because he would like to see it adopt language that would strengthen the state spending cap.
Republican state House contender Jill Fitzgerald said she has a gay brother who’s been in “a long, monogamous relationship” and a gay cousin in Hollywood who’s already gotten married.
“Having gay family members who are dear to me has caused me to be very thoughtful about” the gay marriage issue, she said. “It is a difficult situation. It really is.”
Fitzgerald, who is running for an open seat in the 77th District in northeastern Bristol, said there is a “cultural perception of marriage is that it is between a man and a woman” that tradition ought to be honored. Four judges shouldn’t be able “to make a decision for the entire population,” she said
She said the court’s ruling is “not a very sensitive way” to handle a culturally charged issue that will likely be resolved in a decade or two by shifting attitudes.
“It just makes people angry with one another” to have a battle arise over whether to extend marriage to gay men and women now, Fitzgerald said.
Chris Wright, a Democrat who is also running in the 77th District, said he supports the court’s decision.
“Basically, I’m kind of a libertarian at heart,” he said. “I believe that people should be able to live their lives without a lot of government interference.”
Wright said he doesn’t feel comfortable having the government tell people whom they can have relations with.
“I’m just a basic believer in freedom,” Wright said.
He also took issue with the GOP’s tendency to oppose gay rights.
“A lot of Republicans talk about smaller government. They want government that’s just small enough to get into your bedroom,” Wright said.
Fitzgerald said she would have preferred that the issue “have gone out to the citizens of Connecticut to vote on before a ruling was made.”
Laura Minor, a justice of the peace in Bristol, said the ruling is “absolutely incredible. I’m delighted.”
Minor said that she has performed many marriages and a number of civil unions.
“The love between all of the couples – when I see the love they have for each other and the look in each others’ eyes – is exactly the same” whether the couple is straight or gay, Minor said.
“This is a basic issue of justice,” Minor said.
She said that religions should be able to decide who can marry within their faiths based on their own traditions and beliefs.
But government has an obligation to recognize marriage as a civil right for everyone “without discrimination.”
Civil unions are “only partway there,” she said.
Minor said she can’t wait to perform her first gay marriage.
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
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