August 29, 2005
SUMMARY OF PA 05-10: AN ACT CONCERNING CIVIL UNIONS
By: Susan Price, Principal Legislative Analyst
You asked for a summary of PA 05-10, An Act Concerning Civil Unions.
This act 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 prescribes record-keeping requirements. The act (1) restricts civil unions to emancipated minors and couples over age 18 and (2) exempts people authorized to perform civil union ceremonies from liability for failing or refusing to do so. Otherwise, the act's substantive provisions and penalties are identical to current marriage statutes.
The act 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.
The act goes into effect October 1, 2005 (but see “Related Act” section below.
BENEFITS, PROTECTIONS, AND RESPONSIBILITIES
The act 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. some pension and group health insurance plan provisions;
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.
The act 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 act 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)).
To be eligible to form a civil union, the act 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 act, as well as existing marriage law, people under conservatorships must obtain their conservator's written permission.
Section 58 of PA 05-03 (June Special Session) delays until January 1, 2006 the effective date for the act's gift, estate, and income tax provisions.