OLR Research Report


October 5, 2002 2002-R-0834

SAME-SEX PARTNERS IN CONNECTICUT

This Backgrounder provides current information on (1) same-sex partner households in Connecticut, (2) participation of same-sex partners in the Judicial Department's family court mediation program, (3) Connecticut Family Court jurisdiction over Vermont civil unions, (4) state employee benefit plan enrollments, (5) Connecticut employers that offer domestic partner benefits, and (6) co-parent adoption filings. We have included a list of further reading with hyperlinks to documents that are available online; legislators and staff can ask OLR for copies of all documents listed.

Table 1: Connecticut Households

Same-Sex Partner

Households

Other Unmarried Partner

Households

FAIRFIELD

(324,232 Total Households)

1,846

14,115

HARTFORD

(325,098 Total Households)

1,977

18,043

LITCHFIELD

(71,551 Total Households)

428

3,817

MIDDLESEX

(61,341 Total Households)

352

3,310

NEW HAVEN

(319,040 Total Households)

1,750

17,027

NEW LONDON

(99,835 Total Households)

538

6,278

TOLLAND

(49,431 Total Households)

276

2,814

WINDHAM

(41,142 Total Households)

219

3,289

STATE OF CONNECTICUT

(1,301,670 Total Households)

7,386

61,487

CONNECTICUT POPULATION

Census 2000 counted 1,301,670 households in Connecticut. Of these, 68,873 (7,386 same-sex and 61,487 opposite-sex) were unmarried partner households. A county-by-county breakdown of unmarried partners is shown in Table 1.

USE OF FAMILY COURT MEDIATION SERVICES BY SAME- SEX COUPLES

Last year, the Judicial Department implemented a free pretrial mediation program to help unmarried same-sex and opposite-sex couples divide up their property when ending domestic partner relationships. Trained family relations counselors work with them to resolve these cases without going to trial.

Steve Grant, deputy director of Court Support Services Division/Family reports that his office has mediated 17 disputes involving same-sex couples since the program began. Of these, 11 resulted in full agreements, 3 were partially resolved, and 3 reached no agreement.

Grant pointed out that the court statistics do not show cases where the parties were referred to more traditional civil alternate dispute resolution procedures, such as judge referees.

CONNECTICUT FAMILY COURT JURISDICTION OVER VERMONT CIVIL UNIONS

A Connecticut resident who entered into a civil union in Vermont on December 31, 2000 sought to dissolve it in a Connecticut family court. The judge dismissed the suit, ruling that civil unions are not "family matters" under the law and court rules defining Connecticut's family court jurisdiction. The Appellate Court upheld that decision. It found additional support for denying jurisdiction in statements made during the Senate debate on the co-parent adoption bill (see below) and that law's provision that it should not be construed as endorsing any public policy with respect to marriage, civil union, or any other form of relation between unmarried persons (Rosengarten v. Downes, 71 Conn. App. 372 (2002)). On September 19, 2002 Connecticut's Supreme Court agreed to review the case.

ENROLLMENT IN STATE EMPLOYEE HEALTH AND RETIREMENT PLANS

An arbitrator's award permits unionized state employees to enroll their same-sex partners in the state Health Benefit Plan and the State Employee Retirement System; OPM extended this benefit to other state employees. The coverage went into effect March 10, 2000. Steven Weinberger of the comptroller's Retirement and Benefit Services Division provided the following enrollment information.

Same-sex partners represent less than 0. 5% of all plan participants. The state estimates the cost of covering this group (FY 02-03) is $ 825,000. Its total plan costs for the same period are $ 700 million.

Legal Challenge

In December 2000 a state employee filed an employment discrimination complaint with the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO). The complainant charges that the exclusion of heterosexual domestic partners from the state benefit plans constitutes marital status and sexual orientation discrimination. CHRO legislative liaison Lena Ferguson reports that the case is under investigation.

CONNECTICUT EMPLOYERS OFFERING DOMESTIC PARTNER BENEFITS

We have found no centralized list of Connecticut employers that offer domestic partner benefits. However, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, a lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender advocacy group, lists 40 employers in this state. Of these, 17 are governmental entities such as the state, towns, and boards of education and 23 are private employers. Some cover unmarried heterosexual couples as well as same-sex. We downloaded this information from their website (http: //www. hrc. org/worknet/) on September 20, 2002.

CO-PARENT ADOPTIONS

Legislation, effective October 1, 2000, allows an unmarried person who shares parental responsibility with a child's parent to apply to the Probate Court to adopt the child. Linda Dow, chief counsel to Connecticut's probate court administrator reports that the court's automated case tracking system currently does not separate out this type of case (often called co-parent adoption) from cases involving stepparent adoptions, but will begin doing so January 1, 2003.

Based on her experience and the additional cases tracked since the law went into effect, Dow estimates that between 20 and 30 co-parent adoption petitions were filed between January and June 2002. She emphasized that this is a "best guess" because the Probate Court statistics for this category of cases have fluctuated substantially year-to-year, even before the co-parent cases were added.

FURTHER READING

OLR Reports

OLR Backgrounders on Related Topics

Census 2000

State Employee Benefit Plans

Court Opinion

Co-Parent Adoption Law

This Backgrounder (2002-R-0834) was prepared by Susan Price-Livingston, OLR Associate Attorney