OLR Bill Analysis

sSB 963 (as amended by House “A” and “B”)*

AN ACT CONCERNING CIVIL UNIONS

SUMMARY:

This bill authorizes same sex couples to enter into civil unions, granting them the same legal benefits, protections, and responsibilities as married couples. It incorporates civil unions by reference in most statutes that use or define terms indicating a spousal relationship. It establishes eligibility, application, and licensing criteria; specifies who can perform civil union ceremonies; and sets forth record-keeping requirements. The bill (1) restricts civil unions to couples over age 18, (2) exempts people authorized to perform civil union ceremonies from liability for failing or refusing to do so, and (3) requires town clerks to give civil union license applicants copies of the relevant laws. Otherwise, the bill’s substantive provisions and penalties are identical to current marriage statutes.

The bill also defines “marriage” as the union of one man and one woman. It establishes circumstances under which the state will recognize civil unions performed in other countries.

*House Amendment “A” adds the definition of marriage.

*House Amendment “B” eliminates the authority of parents or probate court judges to consent to civil unions involving partners under age 18.

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2005

BENEFITS, PROTECTIONS, AND RESPONSIBILITIES ( 14 & 15)

The bill specifies that the rights it extends to civil union partners may derive under statute, administrative regulations or court rules, policy, common law, or any other source of civil law. Generally, these fall into the following categories:

1. family law, including marriage, divorce, and support;

2. title, tenure, descent and distribution, intestate succession, wills, survivorships, or other incidents of the acquisition, ownership, or transfer (during life or at death) of real or personal property;

3. state and municipal taxation;

4. probate courts and procedure;

5. group insurance for government (but not private-sector) employees;

6. family leave benefits;

7. financial disclosure and conflict-of-interest rules;

8. protection against discrimination based on marital status;

9. emergency and non-emergency medical care and treatment, hospital visitation and notification, and authority to act in matters affecting family members;

10. state public assistance benefits;

11. workers’ compensation;

12. crime victims’ rights;

13. marital privileges in court proceedings; and

14. vital records and absentee voting procedures.

Excluded Laws ( 15)

The bill does not incorporate civil unions by reference in the chapter of the General Statutes relating to marriage procedures and formalities. But it includes new provisions setting out the same procedures and formalities for applicants and parties to civil unions.

Civil unions are also specifically excluded under the bill from the statute that states that “the current public policy of the state is now limited to a marriage between a man and a woman” (CGS 45a-727a(4)).

ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA ( 1, 2, 9, 10)

To be eligible to form a civil union, the bill requires that each party be of the same sex, not a party to another civil union or a marriage, and no more closely related to one another than first cousin. Unions between people more closely related are void.

People under age 18 can enter into civil unions only if a court has declared them emancipated (legal adults). By law, partners 16 or 17 years of age may marry if their parents consent, and those under age 15 may do so with a probate judge’s consent. Under the bill, as well as existing marriage law, people under conservatorships must obtain their conservator’s written permission. A conservator’s refusal to permit the ceremony to proceed must be based on clear and convincing proof of recent behavior that would cause or create a risk of harm.

RECOGNITION OF FOREIGN CIVIL UNIONS ( 13)

The bill declares civil unions performed in other countries involving at least one state resident valid, so long as the couple (1) could have entered into a civil union in Connecticut and the ceremony was performed in accordance with the other country’s laws or (2) holds the ceremony in the U. S. consulate’s jurisdiction, before that country’s U. S. ambassador, minister, or other accredited consular official, and has a licensed clergy member officiate. Current law involving recognition of foreign heterosexual marriages is the same.

BACKGROUND

Legislative History

The Senate referred the bill to the Appropriations and Finance, Revenue and Bonding committees, which reported it favorably on March 21 and 30, respectively. The House referred the bill to the Planning and Development Committee, which reported it favorably on April 12.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Judiciary Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute

Yea

25

Nay

13

Appropriations Committee

Joint Favorable Report

Yea

31

Nay

15

Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee

Joint Favorable Report

Yea

31

Nay

11

Planning and Development Committee

Joint Favorable Report

Yea

15

Nay

3