Good afternoon distinguished chairperson and members of the Committee. My name is Bob Killian and I am the Probate Judge for the District of Hartford. Thank you for the opportunity to testify on the issue of civil unions.
For going on 19 years, I have had the privilege of serving as the Judge of the Probate for the District of Hartford. During that time, I have come in touch with thousands of people in our capital area whose stability and happiness has been severely challenged by wrenching personal problems. How people in society respond to these challenges is the stuff of Probate Court jurisdiction. One truth that I believe prevails: in the face of the greatest adversity we encounter some of society's greatest heroes.
I don't know for sure what I can tell you today on the important issue of removing governmental impediments to people's right to develop relationships which enable them jointly and not separately to confront life's hurdles. I haven't studied the issue. I can't speak to you about the costs of leveling the playing field between traditional married couples and the atypical personal partnerships which are emerging but nineteen years in Probate Court has provided me with the unique vantage point from which to draw personal conclusions based on experiential data, none of which I am able to qualify or quantify.
Imagine this. Someone faces a devastating illness. One's companion of more than two dozen years provides care a cadre of hired people wouldn't be capable of offering. At life's end, that person is there to hold a companion's hand and gently, when the last breath has fled the body, to close the eyes and prepare to weep and grieve. This is the essence of humanity, this is the essence of goodness. It is the essence of charity, and it is the essence of love. Yet society rewards these extraordinary commitments with what only appears to be studied indifference. Title 19, the laws of intestacy, Social Security, pensions, and health care benefits conspire to deny same sex couples prepared to make a commitment, one to the other, the opportunity to do so and reap the benefits of creating a union of two that is personal, economically viable, legal and meaningful.
I see this all the time. I see it as I struggle with laws which are unyielding in the deference they give to blood ties, rather than to the ties that truly bind: the ties of love and commitment.
Now, we've come a long way. Obviously, by will these individuals can take care of each other; they can do powers of attorney in each other's favor; they can execute health care agencies which will be recognized by the law; and they can structure their non-probate assets so that they have the same indicia of joint tenancy once preserved solely in the marital union. But none of this captures the presumption that exists in the marital state. The presumption is the commitment voluntarily made that extends to all aspects of life, to health and happiness and even unto death.
Why should two people, willing to accept the legal obligations attendant to marriage, be denied health care benefits, family leave opportunities, pension rights, Social Security benefits, housing opportunities, inheritance rights, legal rights for loss of consortium and the like, just because they are of the same sex? I would submit society should honor successful commitment by one individual to another without regard to gender.
Spousal duty should require the same sex couple to provide for each other's support and all the other responsibilities attendant to a traditional marriage, including the need to obtain judicial consent for a separation or divorce. Given the nature of the commitment, many same sex couples, just like many of their different sex counterparts, may determine not to make a full commitment to marriage. Those that are prepared to commit, however, should not be discriminated against.
Listen to this reading from the Apache Marriage Ceremony.
Now you will feel no rain.
For each of you will be shelter for the other.
Now you will feel no cold.
For each of you will be warmth for the other.
Now there is no more loneliness.
Now you are two persons
But there is only one life before you.
Go now to your dwelling
To enter into the days of your life together.
And may your days together
Be good and long upon the earth.
How can a compassionate society deny that type of opportunity to anybody who yearns for and is lucky enough to have found a companion with whom to share life's journey?