CHAIRMEN: Senator McDonald
VICE CHAIRMEN: Representative Fox
SENATORS: Doyle, Gomes,
REPRESENTATIVES: Aman, Barry, Clemons,
Conway, Dillon, Fritz,
Hamm, Hetherington, Holder-Winfield, Hovey, Hurlburt, Labriola,
Morris, Reeves, Roldan,
Rowe, Serra, Spallone, Taborsak,
SENATOR MCDONALD: If the Judiciary Committee would please come to order, and if members of the public would please find a seat. There are plenty of seats here. If everybody could find a seat, we'd appreciate it.
Capitol Police like our aisles to be clear.
There are a number of members of the Committee who are running around and in other committee meetings, but will be coming shortly, but we do have an obligation under our rules to start the public hearing now.
Just a couple of ground rules. One is that, as many of you may know, the testimony before the Committee is limited to three minutes. You will hear a buzzer at about the time the three minutes are up. We'll give you a little leeway to wrap up your thought that you might be in at that point in time, but we would appreciate it if you would be respectful of those who are also signed up and are anxious to submit testimony and presentations before the Committee.
Please take a moment now to attend to your cell phones and make sure that they are not on ring tone, and that they are set to silent or vibrate, so that our attention can be given to the members of the public who are going to be testifying before us. That also goes for Committee members, if they would please make sure that their phones are also set to silent.
We have a number of individuals who are department heads or elected officials, or chief elected officials from municipalities who want to testify before our Committee. Under our rules, the first hour of the public hearing is set aside to hear from those individuals. After that hour is up, we will move into the public portion of the public hearing.
So having said that, the first elected official to be on our list is Senator Gary LeBeau. I don't know if he is here. Okay. While you're doing that, if you would you be so kind, we're going to just then go on and move to Kevin Kane. Is Kevin Kane here? Kevin Kane is not, Kevin Kane is here. Good to see you, Mr. Kane.
KEVIN KANE: Thank you for having me here. I didn't bring any water today. I know you'll be short today. There's a lot of people on behind me, and I hope we don't hold them up.
I'm here to speak about the DNA bills that are on this morning, on the agenda, Senate Bill Number 542.
I forgot. My name is Kevin Kane. I'm the Chief State's Attorney, and I'm here to talk about these three bills, Senate Bill Number 542, House Bill Number 6381 and House Bill Number 6573.
Each of these bills addresses at least one or two issues that are important with regard to the collection of DNA, and each one of these bills has some good concepts in them, but none of them address all of the issues that really need to be addressed.
There was a public hearing on a bill last week before the Public Safety Committee, Senate Bill Number 906, in which a substitute bill was submitted and was voted out by that Committee, and is on the way here, that addresses a bunch of issues with regard to DNA that are all important.
I think we have agreements. There was quite a debate there during the hearing last week about some of the issues, and the substitute bill that came out after that hearing was a compromise, a compromise on some of those issues, and it was a very, very good compromise.
What I would like to suggest if this Committee would consider it, would be that this Committee wait and take a look at that bill when it gets here. I don't know the process or how fast it will get here. I hope it will be soon.
But it's a very good bill. I think we've all agreed on the bill. The Department of Public Safety, the Judicial Branch, the Department of Corrections has seen it all, agrees that it contains good concepts.
The important issues with regard to DNA are, number one, expanding the data bank and doing so by making collections, by enabling us to get samples from appropriate people early on in the process.
One of these bills that's before you today would suggest collecting samples from everybody who's convicted, even of an A or B misdemeanor. That's a good idea. Normally, I would like that. Normally, I'd recommend that, but in this day and age with the money and the resources the State of Connecticut has, I think it's going to be too much of a burden on the system and a burden on the lab to do it for A and B misdemeanors, even though it's after conviction.
And those, if we had to prioritize who we should try to be collecting DNA from, it would be on people convicted of felonies rather than those.
I think it's a good idea. Had we had the resources to do it that we thought we might have had two years ago, I would have been strongly in favor of it, but today's today, and I think it's going to put too much of a burden on the system to do that.
Another bill would provide for the collection right after arrest from any felonies. That's the bill that I testified about strongly, and I was in favor of it strongly last year.
There was a lot of opposition to it. There were a lot of good questions from people on this Committee who were against it. It's understandable why they were against it, and the compromise bill that came out of public safety provides for collection from felons after conviction, and not prior to, not on arrest.
Part of the reason there is the recognition that there was a substantial resistance to it here. That also would add a burden on the lab if we did it for everybody at the time of arrest. Finances might make it a bit difficult for them. That's why I think the consolidated bill would be a very good way to do it.
The issues that we'd like to address that are included in the consolidated bill, but are really not present in any of these bills, but area addressed in the consolidated bill that's on its way here.
Right now, there's no provision that the sample collected be of sufficient quality to enable the processing to result in the collection of DNA. If a person provides a sample, and the lab turns out to find that they cannot get any DNA out of that sample, that might, the law is unclear as to whether or not we can go back and get a second sample, require the production of a second sample of sufficient quality.
The new bill would take care of that issue. We need to be able to get the DNA and the providing of a sample may not lead to that, and that's why we need to go back a second time.
The other issue is, which would allow the Division of Scientific Services to set the standards for the means of collecting samples. So it's done scientifically, it's done uniformly, and it's done in a manner in which the lab can assure the accuracy of the results.
Another thing that we would like to recommend is that submission of a sample under a false name is a crime. That's included in Senate Bill Number 906, and that that crime for refusal or failure to provide a sample will be a Class D felony.
Another thing that we would like to be included in the bill is that the administrators of the data bank be allowed to advise law enforcement officials whether or not a particular individual is in the bank after a sample has been received.
The reason why that's important is this. Take for example we have a crime scene, a homicide, and blood is collected at the crime scene, and most of the blood is found to be the blood of the victim.
But there is one quantity of blood that's unknown. The police may at the time of the offense have a wide range of suspects. There may be one particular suspect. There may be a group of suspects.
It's important to know who that unknown blood is, whose that unknown blood is. They submit it to the lab, and it comes back no match. Well, that's all under the present law the police can find out.
They can't find out whether or not that suspect that they have in mine, or that we have in mind, whether or not that suspect has submitted a sample that is in the data bank.
If we were allowed to ask the data bank people, is so and so, is John Smith's DNA in the data bank, and they tell us yes, and we would know then that there was no match because the results of the prior test had indicated there was no match.
When they tell us yes, John Jones is in the data bank, knowing that there was no match between him and the unknown blood, we could exclude that person right early on as a suspect, which would be a great benefit to law enforcement and the public, and it also would be a great benefit to John Jones himself because he's no longer considered a suspect. We can rule him out and proceed with accurate suspects. That's an important part of Senate Bill Number 906 that's coming.
The other thing we would request is since CSFD will be collecting, there's about three or four thousand people who are not in custody, who are not on probation, who are required under the statute to provide samples of DNA.
Right now the Department of Public Safety, they're obligated to collect it. CSFD is willing to do this. It would be much more workable if CSFD were to do it. They've agreed to do it. So the Senate Bill Number 906 would transfer the obligation to collect samples from the Department of Public Safety to CSFD.
That's a very important part of what Public Safety wants. In fact, they want that more than anything. I have spoken to John Danaher several times. He can't be here this morning. He is in agreement with my request to ask this Committee to wait and act on Senate Bill Number 906. We've talked about that, and we have at least a tentative, if not a conclusive agreement from him to support Senate Bill Number 906.
In addition, let's see. We also have in Senate Bill Number 906 a provision that would prevent an arrest or conviction from being invalidated if it is determined that the biological sample from which the DNA profile was obtained was placed in the bank in good faith. We don't want good faith submission of a DNA sample to the bank to void a possible conviction later on that resulted from a match that came from that.
The last thing is a provision in the bill that would provide neither the state nor any of its officers, and this is one of the ones, because part of it allows the police, part of Senate Bill Number 906, as well as one of these bills, would allow the Commissioner of Corrections, after somebody has been convicted for refusal to provide a sample, after that conviction takes place, Corrections then, the Department of Corrections then could use reasonable force to collect a sample from somebody.
At that time, we've asked for a provision to be there that neither the state nor any of its officers be civilly liable for good faith efforts to collect biological samples for and maintain, and to maintain the data bank. It's a protection of civil liability from the individuals. Those are all in the consolidated bill.
SEN. MCDONALD: Okay. Let's just see if anybody has, by the way, do you know the number of bill from Public Safety?
KEVIN KANE: Senate Bill Number 906.
SEN. MCDONALD: Senate Bill Number 906. Thank you.
KEVIN KANE: Substitute Senate Bill Number 906.
SEN. MCDONALD: Okay. Are there any questions from members of the Committee? Senator Kissel.
SEN. KISSEL: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. And after we had our colloquy on Wednesday regarding the death penalty, I spoke to my wife who was watching it on CT-N and she said to me, do you still support the death penalty on that?
So I apologize if I was impassioned, or I wasn't articulate. I just get concerned when we have dialogues about changing the death penalty because sometimes that process can take a step backwards.
But if I was too impassioned on Wednesday, I would like to apologize.
KEVIN KANE: If I was too impassioned I would apologize, too, but that's the kind of issue that brings out that kind of feelings in all of us.
SEN. KISSEL: And we started off exactly on the same page, so that was interesting how that one shook out.
Just two quick questions. Basically, although you're testifying on the DNA bills that we have before us today, it basically was testimony in support of Senate Bill Number 906.
KEVIN KANE: Yes.
SEN. KISSEL: And I'm wondering if, essentially what you're saying is that we should embrace that bill, and that bill incorporates everything that you would like to see us do as a Legislature this year.
KEVIN KANE: Yes.
SEN. KISSEL: And there's nothing we have to add to that bill?
KEVIN KANE: There's nothing you have to add to it, and some of the components of all three of these bills I think are in that bill, too.
SEN. KISSEL: Okay. And my second question is, and I don't know if you're the right person to ask this, but you might have the knowledge.
Budget cutbacks and things like that, I think DNA evidence, I mean, to the extent that we can race there as fast as possible, it has so much great potential, not only to allow us to better find the bad folks out there that commit these crimes, but to exonerate the people that are unjustly accused and get them off the table.
And so while I'm cognizant of the fact that we have to work within limited resources, the faster we get there the better.
Nonetheless, is it your testimony based upon maybe talking to the folks that are in the crime lab, that if we went forward with just doing it for convicted felons, that that will bring them to what their capacity is, or would they even have a hard time even meeting that threshold?
KEVIN KANE: I don't think. They wouldn't have a hard time. It's not the collection and the entry into the database that is causing the big problem. It's making comparisons and tests later on after a hit.
I think if we limit it to convictions, the lab can handle that, and at least the people from the lab have told us that.
This Senate Bill Number 906 by the way is, there's a DNA oversight committee that is composed, I think I'm the chairman of it. Mike Gaylor serves as my designee that reports to me.
There are people from the lab on that DNA oversight committee and they perform several functions, several important functions with the lab. That DNA committee supports the provisions of Senate Bill Number 906. In fact, Senate Bill Number 906 is largely produced as a result of discussions with everybody on that committee, which includes the lab, and that's what they're recommending.
SEN. KISSEL: Okay. Thank you very much.
KEVIN KANE: And yes, it would not be too burdensome if you collect just from felons, but it would be if you collect prior to arrest. I mean, prior to conviction. And it would be if you collected A and B misdemeanors.
SEN. KISSEL: I just think if we can get that capacity up to 100 percent to the extent that we're using every dollar, I think that's a dollar really well used. Thank you so much.
SEN. MCDONALD: Any other questions? Representative O'Neill.
REP. O'NEILL: Just so I understand. We don't have Senate Bill Number 906. Does that one contain the language about raising the penalty from a misdemeanor to a felony?
KEVIN KANE: Yes, it does.
REP. O'NEILL: I'm just curious. Has there been a problem in terms of people not giving samples because the misdemeanor is an institution penalty?
KEVIN KANE: Right now, yes, well, there has been, and we also believe, Commissioner Lantz is here to talk a little bit about that.
Right now, Corrections for the most part are not trying to get samples from people until they're ready to be released, because there's no incentive early on. So we haven't tested, it was a high number of cases.
What we want to do is be able to, at least in certain cases, be able to ask the Commissioner to take samples from people early on. If the only impact is an A misdemeanor, we're anticipating that there would be great resistance.
There hasn't been a huge problem with regard to numbers yet, but it certainly is a realistic thing to expect to anticipate, if we don't, to anticipate it, I mean, if you don't change the penalty.
SEN.KISSEL: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. MCDONALD: Representative Gonzalez.
REP. GONZALEZ: Good morning.
KEVIN KANE: Good morning, Representative Gonzalez.
REP. GONZALEZ: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I saw on TV on the news a couple of months ago, maybe five, six months ago, that it was maybe thousands of DNA, in the DNA bank on testing.
How, if we pass this, if we have, right now thousands of, a lot of you know, thousands of DNA samples untested, how is this going to help?
KEVIN KANE: I'm not sure what that number was in the news, and I'm not sure what they meant by untested.
Untested may be that there is evidence that has been submitted to the lab that's been collected at crime scenes that has not been tested by the lab, and that's different than what we're talking about here.
What we're talking about here is collection of DNA samples from individuals and processing them and submitting them to the data bank.
There is not that kind of a backlog that we're talking about there. There is a backlog in testing evidence that is collected from the crime scenes and in matching that to other DNA. That's a different process, and it's a lengthier process.
REP. GONZALEZ: And how long does it take?
KEVIN KANE: How long does that second--
REP. GONZALEZ: Yes.
KEVIN KANE: There's quite a backlog. It takes months. It takes months.
REP. GONZALEZ: So that means if I give up my DNA it will take months for you to test mine and find out my DNA?
KEVIN KANE: If we, no, it will not. If you give up your DNA, that can be processed and submitted into the data bank very quickly.
REP. GONZALEZ: Right.
KEVIN KANE: That process is not time consuming. I don't believe there's much of a backlog there.
The backlog consists of, let's say the police find evidence at a burglary. Let's say the police find evidence on an assault or a sexual assault or a murder and they submit items to the lab asking the lab to process those items to see if they can find DNA on it, and then to test. There is a backlog in that process, and there's a substantial backlog in that process.
But the collection of samples for the purpose of submitting them to the data bank is not going to be unduly burdened by these changes that we're recommending today.
REP. GONZALEZ: Okay. Thank you.
SEN. MCDONALD: Is there anything further? If not, Representative Dillon.
REP. DILLON: Thank you very much, and I'm apologizing, I'm racing through my documents here to look for the Public Safety bill and make sure that I can listen to your testimony at the same time.
Are you saying that if someone is incarcerated for a misdemeanor, that has say, refused to, that they would then be charged with a felony if they refuse to give a sample?
KEVIN KANE: No. If somebody is required to give a sample under the present law, which includes all felonies, violent sex offenders and a category of offenses, which I don't think, I'm not sure that there's no misdemeanors in it. In that present category I don't know if we're required to, they're almost all felonies, I know that.
People routinely convicted of a misdemeanor like breach of peace or trespass or a simple assault on an adult will not be, are not required under present law to submit samples.
I believe that somebody committed, say, of Assault 3, if they were convicted of Assault 3 on a child, that may be a misdemeanor. I think they're required because it's a crime against a child, I believe they're required to submit a sample.
REP. DILLON: Okay. Well, I was looking, and I decided to ask you for Section 54-250 because the underlying language in House Bill Number 6381 mentions non-violent sexual offense, and I just needed to understand how this would work on the ground. Are there any misdemeanors in that section?
KEVIN KANE: I'm not sure. Off the top of my head right now I'm not sure of sexual assault in the fourth degree is a misdemeanor or not. If you have the statutes in front of you, you could look faster than I can.
I think fourth degree might well be an A misdemeanor. Third degree, it's been a long time since I've been in court as a prosecutor. I used to know these off the top of my head like that, and they come back slowly. Maybe it's age, not time.
REP. DILLON: Oh, no, not you.
KEVIN KANE: Assault in the fourth degree might just be a misdemeanor. I'm not sure.
REP. DILLON: I just wanted to raise a question about whether someone who is convicted of a misdemeanor would then find themselves guilty of a felony under certain circumstances, and we have a lot of felony, we throw felonies around pretty easily, and that, you know, can pretty much change your life.
It may very well be a perfectly logical reasonable thing to do. I just want to make sure how it works.
There are people who actually can find those statutes very quickly.
KEVIN KANE: There are? If I had the book in front of me I could find it very fast, too.
SEN. MCDONALD: Well, I happen to have the book in front of me because our crackerjack legal staff has it. It's both, actually. It's a Class A misdemeanor, but if the victim is under 16, it's a Class D felony.
KEVIN KANE: Okay.
REP. DILLON: So if the victim is 17, it's a misdemeanor, but if you refuse to give up a sample, you would be guilty of a felony?
KEVIN KANE: Yeah.
REP. DILLON: Is that true?
KEVIN KANE: Yes. And that's the way it is under present law. We're not asking that that be changed.
REP. DILLON: The reasonable force in immunization is, I don't know, I have to think about it.
KEVIN KANE: Right.
SEN. MCDONALD: Is there anything further from members of the Committee? If not, thank you very much.
KEVIN KANE: Thank you.
SEN. MCDONALD: Is Senator Gary LeBeau here? Good morning.
SEN.LEBEAU: Good morning, Mr. Chairman. Senator Kissel. How are you this morning?
I have some brief testimony on Senate Bill Number 1056 An Act Concerning Students' Right To Free Speech. I want to speak in favor of this bill. It creates a positive right to free speech, which is a strong approach.
By taking a positive approach and then saying what is not protected, you are establishing a bright line for schools and school administrators to use in determining their reactions vis-à-vis students exercising their free speech rights.
This line is needed as demonstrated in a recent case where the school reached outside the school onto a student's blog and punished her for remarks that were considered offensive.
In doing so, I believe that the school infringed upon her constitutionally guaranteed right to free speech. This right is fundamental to our democracy and our way of life. Free speech is inextricably linked with free thought. You cannot have one without the other.
Free thought and diversity of thought are the building blocks of free choice. Democracy cannot exist without choice.
I do not believe that speech being offensive is adequate grounds for prohibiting it. It is dangerous ground we are walking when we do so.
This does not mean that threatening or harassing speech cannot be prohibited, or in fact speech that can incite disruption or even riot.
I thank the Committee for raising this important concept for discussion. I wish you well in your work.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you, Senator. I want to thank you for actually bringing this to our attention. I think many of us have read about the case in the paper, but it was lucky you to actually raise this, and I appreciate that.
You know, one of the things you just said was that the speech could be considered offensive, and it I've ever heard of a subjective standard by the recipient of speech, you know, what's offensive to one person is certainly not offensive to another, and when it's directed at one person and they take personal umbrage at it, even though it might not have any consequence in the learning environment, it seems to me that you're quickly moving into a realm of declaring one form of speech is more important than another, and that you're the arbiter of what happens outside of the school environment.
But you had the experience of being a teacher in the public schools for years and years. Have you, in all of your experience, have you ever had a situation where out-of-school speech was ever considered to have a terrible impact.
SEN. LEBEAU: Yeah. I was such a great teacher that no one ever criticized me.
SEN. MCDONALD: I'm sure that goes for your political life, too, right?
SEN. LEBEAU: I wish. You know, I was asked that question earlier today. I cannot remember a specific instance of being, I'm sure I was, and I frankly, it's just impossible not to be, and I think it's, you know, students talk and parents talk, and I'm sure they have varying degrees of pleasure or displeasure of how I was as a teacher.
But I have no specific instances, to go right to your question, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. MCDONALD: So let me ask you this. In that particular instance you had a student who posted something on the blog, in the Internet in some fashion, and of course, that becomes known to the world.
But if that same student had said the exact same comments to a friend in a mall, would the quality of the speech be any different? Does it matter who the recipient of the speech is, and how it's disseminated have any bearing on the right to the speech, in your opinion?
SEN. LEBEAU: I would think that there is a line there, and the line is, she did not send it to the school, or to paid school administrators, and I think at that point, she may be crossing the line in terms of, she's now made this a school issue by sending it to school administrators.
SEN. MCDONALD: Right. But that's actually not my question. My question is that if an individual can be, if a student can be punished for putting something on the Internet that isn't directed at the school as you indicate, could they also be punished for saying something in a mall to a friend that was overhead by somebody.
Again, even though it's not widely distributed, it's the same speech, just delivered in a different format.
SEN. LEBEAU: Yes. I think that is a slippery slope that we're heading down with this, in this case. It's a very slippery slope and we could easily slide down it.
You know, within the context today of, a lot of people would object to this, but it is happening. Government's getting bigger, and I think that should be a concern for liberals, conservatives, everybody should be concerned about this, and we should be concerned about ensuring that we have our personal rights, and that's kind of a larger context, in which this case takes place.
SEN. MCDONALD: Well, thank you very much. Are there questions? Senator Kissel.
SEN. KISSEL: Thank you very much. Senator LeBeau, it's always a pleasure to have you come before this Committee or any other committee that I serve on, and it's really been an honor and a pleasure to serve with you for lo these many years.
SEN. LEBEAU: Thank you, Sir.
SEN. KISSEL: My question has to do with the, how this would actually work, and at first I was thinking of using the example of the propositions out in California, but let me even make it even more liberal.
A lot of our local communities have budget referenda, and what if it was a high school kid, 15, 16, 17 that either had on a tee shirt vote yes on the referenda or no on the referenda and was walking around high school wearing that, knowing that it had budget implications for a local community and that maybe the teachers in that school might feel strongly about it, or administrators might feel strongly about it, or other students might feel strongly about it.
Is that something that would have a tendency to disrupt the classroom, and therefore be something the administration would say, no, we can't have that tee shirt? You know, where do you envision the line to be?
SEN. LEBEAU: I envision the line to be, you just hit the nail on the head in terms of disruption. I think if a student does something, I mean, and we're talking here inside the school, which is not what I was intending to protect.
But that is, I think that's, there's a pretty clear, and there's a long case history of court cases that have kind of defined where those lines are.
As you know, I'm not a lawyer. I am a teacher. But I did have some, you know, some school law, and I think you have a case history of where that's built up in terms of what is disruptive and what is not.
My own personal opinion on your case, on that case, yes or no, I've got a budget shirt, vote yes or no. I think it's within the young person's right to wear that. It just seems to me that that in itself would not be disruptive to the school environment. I can't see how that would be disruptive.
SEN. KISSEL: Okay. So really your focus is essentially speech outside the classroom or outside the school that might be critical of a school system?
SEN. LEBEAU: Yes.
SEN. KISSEL: And that even though an individual is not 18 or older, that they should have as much of free speech right as an adult.
SEN. LEBEAU: Essentially, yes.
SEN. KISSEL: I appreciate that. Anything that I can, have you bounced this off of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education or those folks that you have concerns?
SEN. LEBEAU: You might say it bounced off of them.
SEN. KISSEL: Okay. Thank you, Senator.
SEN. LEBEAU: Thanks, John.
SEN. MCDONALD: I believe we have somebody to testify on behalf of the Connecticut Association of the Boards of Education. Representative O'Neill.
REP. O'NEILL: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Good morning, Senator.
SEN. MCDONALD: Good morning, Representative.
SEN. O'NEILL: I don't know if this was, was this your bill that we're dealing with? Did you draft this language?
SEN. LEBEAU: No. But it's similar in content and intent.
REP. O'NEILL: Was it derived from some other source, another state, or anything like that?
SEN. LEBEAU: No.
REP. O'NEILL: Okay.
SEN.LEBEAU: I don't know whether this one was or not, this bill was or not, but mine was not.
REP. O'NEILL: Okay, it was derived from the case and basically your reading of the Constitution.
So when words such as lewd, vulgar or indecent in Section 1(2), it's b(2), those words lewd, vulgar or indecent, are you, is there a court case that defines those things that you're intending this be based on, or is there, are there things that you're thinking of yourself?
SEN. LEBEAU: Since this isn't my bill, I wasn't thinking of lewd, vulgar or indecent, but I think that also refers back to within the school.
REP. O'NEILL: Right.
SEN. LEBEAU: And so, again, what I was particularly concerned with was speech outside the school, and I believe that there, again as I said, I believe there's a whole series of case law which has defined, which has been developed over 35 or 40 years, which has defined the rights of students within the school, and I think lewd, for those purposes, those things are always coming up, and they are always going to be bouncing off in terms of what kind of a tee shirt a student can wear, what kinds of things kids can say within a school.
REP. O'NEILL: Okay. But as you said, that would only apply to the in-school situation--
SEN. LEBEAU: Right.
REP. O'NEILL: --in terms of various kinds of symbols or things that might be placed on a tee shirt, buttons people might wear, that sort of thing.
Because one of the things, Senator Kissel referred to a vote yes on the budget, I'm thinking perhaps of somebody, let's say, wearing a swastika or something of that sort. Would that be something that would fall into a lewd, vulgar, or, to me it doesn't, not lewd, necessarily.
It might be by some people's view, vulgar or indecent, but it's a, was a political symbol for a fairly unpopular political viewpoint, and certainly something that most people would find repulsive.
SEN. LEBEAU: I think the case law on that is that has been found to be potentially disruptive because of the nature of the symbol and the history that it's associated with.
REP. O'NEILL: Okay. So, this would not then open the door to trying to say that sort of symbol, and then there are variety of other symbols that, obviously that's the most provocative one, but there are other political symbols people can wear, or symbols of things that people can wear that might be somewhat less obvious, but maybe to young people have an equivalent connotation, which is one of the problems because I don't necessarily know what all those might tend to be. Probably none of us do that are not young people ourselves.
But, and I don't mean to pin you on this because it's not your language, but I'm just trying, as I'm looking at this, I'm wondering, unless there's an existing court case definition, in which case the courts have already decided.
I'm not sure why we're drafting a statute to basically try to get in there and I think if we had language, it must mean something beyond the vote, what's already in the Constitution.
And the other thing is--
SEN. LEBEAU: I think those are legitimate concerns, Representative.
REP. O'NEILl: Sir?
SEN. LEBEAU: I think those are legitimate concerns, and again, I would go back to the years of case law that have developed within the school in terms of what can and what cannot be said. And it's always somewhat evolving.
REP. O'NEILL: Right. But the thing is, once we pass the statute, then it means something specific the Legislature has tried to do as opposed to the courts looking to a general statement of some kind in the Constitution to try to, and then they're basing their court decisions on those things.
Now the statute becomes something else that people have to look at, and I'm just, you know, once we pass it, it may have a different meaning than what the courts might have used those words to mean when they were construing the Constitution.
The other thing is, though that, I'm wondering about the age of children, which this would include, I mean, children as young as what, four years old, five years old, preschool, I guess, I'm not sure, elementary school. That would be what? Seven, six.
SEN. LEBEAU: Lower than that. Four, five, even pre-K.
REP. O'NEILL: And so they would enjoy the same panoply of rights that a 30-year-old schoolteacher would have. I guess I find that, maybe it's fine, but it just sort of strikes me as difficult.
SEN. LEBEAU: I have a hard time thinking that someone is six or seven years old that's going to create, abuse the free speech rights. I'm not sure how that would work out. Yes, the answer is yes.
REP. O'NEILL: But the answer is yes. So the way this is drafted it would apply to a five-year-old as well as a 15-year-old as well as the same rights as a 25-year-old would have.
SEN. LEBEAU: As long as they're not crossing the schoolhouse door.
REP. O'NEILL: Okay. Well, but a lot of this statute deals with stuff going on in school, though. This particular proposal deals a lot within schools. Okay, thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. MCDONALD: Representative Dillon.
REP. DILLON: Thank you very much. I'm sitting here, and I'm afraid, I heard the colloquy between yourself and Senator McDonald, and there was a particular case that generated your interest in this?
REP. DILLON: Could you just, briefly just state what the fact pattern was?
SEN. LEBEAU: You know, I think this is the first time I've ever testified in front of Judiciary, and you use a language that we don't use in commerce, the fact pattern.
But I did, my interest was piqued in this. I was just reading the newspapers and the case was the Avery v. Doninger case downstate, that the girl who's a high school student wrote some offensive language on a blog.
I can't remember whether the superintendent or the principal of the school went to the blog to search it out, or had somebody that, because he apparently didn't know how to get there, and had somebody else, a younger person go to it, find it, and then punish the student by not being able to run for class office, if I remember correctly.
And so she was prohibited from engaging in certain extra-curricular activity because of the comment she had made on her blog, and I felt that, again, it was overreaching on the part of the school.
REP. DILLON: Well, I'm a graduate of parochial education and I guess I'm not going to say much about that except that I would have liked to have that when I was in high school.
But the, I guess there's a couple of things. I mean, the courts, obviously, when it comes to the expectation of privacy, it's been eroding. Certainly, any rights of high school students, and you know, the whole thing about reasonable expectation of privacy is the more they take away, the less you can reasonably expect, so that kind of goes downhill.
On the speech question, there was another case last year during the general election, and I guess I wanted to ask you about that just to see, and I'm trying to remember it. I was trying to look it up while we were, while I was listening to you, of a student who was carrying a--
SEN. LEBEAU: Before you go further with that--
REP. DILLON: Yes.
SEN. LEBEAU: I don't believe this is about privacy.
REP. DILLON: No, I know that. I know that. I know that. But there's a general tendency in the court in terms of students' rights, and I cited that a privacy issue was one in particular that's changed dramatically in the past 10 years, 20 years, actually.
On the speech question, there was a student carrying a poster, and it was not on school property, but near school property, and I believe it referred to marijuana.
But I don't remember exactly what the reference was, but it was not a school-sponsored event. There was some kind of a campaign event there, maybe, and I'm afraid I can't remember it.
But the bottom line is, the student was carrying a big poster and was suspended, and may have been expelled, actually, and I suspect the reason the student was expelled was, the student's picture was taken and it appeared on the Internet again.
So this is turning out to be a whole issue of exposure where the law changes because of the publicity impact of Internet.
I guess I wanted to ask you about a case like that. Let's say if a ninth grader is carrying a poster and it referred to, in this case, something illegal, you know, marijuana isn't legal, would that student be protected?
If that student were expelled by the school after their picture appeared in the paper, would the student have a cause of action from this legislation?
SEN. LEBEAU: I would hope so, yes. I think it would be a gross injustice if that were to occur.
REP. DILLON: Thank you very much.
SEN. MCDONALD: Is there anything further? If not, thank you very much.
SEN. LEBEAU: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. MCDONALD: Is Representative Beth Bye here? She indicated she was in another committee meeting.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: She's in Public Health.
SEN. MCDONALD: She's in Public Health as well? Senator Edith Prague. Is Senator Prague here? Good morning, Edith.
SEN. PRAGUE: Good morning, Senator McDonald, Senator Kissel and members of the Judiciary Committee. I'm here to support House Bill Number 89, let me put my glasses on so I can see what I'm doing.
I'm here to support House Bill Number 899 An Act Implementing The Guarantee Of Equal Protection Under The Constitution Of The State For Same Sex Couples.
You know, as I look out at each and every one of you, for those of you who have spouses, you know how important it is to have someone to love you and someone for you to love.
There is nothing more important in life than to be able to share your life with somebody you love and somebody who loves you.
Wealth and position are important, but not anywhere near as important as having a partner in life that you can share your life with, somebody you love, and somebody who loves you.
I hope that this Committee will think about that, think about your own situation, and how enriched your life is when you know that you're going home to somebody who loves you.
So I would ask you to give every human being that consideration and I thank you very much for your time. If there are any questions, I would be happy to try and answer them.
I think we have a huge responsibility to a lot of people who live in our state, who are only asking for the same rights as everybody else has.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you very much, Senator Prague, and I don't have any questions for you, just a debt of gratitude. You are an amazing lady, Edith. Thank you very much.
Are there any questions for Senator Prague? If not, thank you.
SEN. PRAGUE: Thank you.
SEN. MCDONALD: Richard Blumenthal?
RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee. There are a number of bills that I will submit testimony on, but I want to focus on one in particular because I have fought for it going back five years to 2004 in the course of my investigation of the Rowland scandal, when I proposed a number of measures, learning some of the lessons that were very dramatically indicated by that unfortunate experience, and as you know we recovered money in our state investigations.
The federal prosecution culminated in prison sentences but we remain without one of the key measures that would help protect against corrupt contracting, and that is the False Claims Act.
This proposal is particularly timely this year because we lost, last year, more than $1 million. We left it on the table because we had no False Claims Act.
Attached to my testimony are a list of Medicaid cases, federal, state Medicaid cases seeking recovery for fraud that resulted in a 50/50 split for Connecticut and the federal government.
Our share of that recovery would have been 10 percent higher if we had a False Claims Act. At least $1 million Connecticut left on the table simply because we lacked a measure that permits the State of Connecticut to directly penalize contractors who falsify bills or fraudulently fail to perform under contract or otherwise engage in wrongdoing that harms our taxpayers.
I've worked for this measure since 2004, and I believe that we now have a very strong consensus in favor of it, almost all the industry that would be affected. Almost all the business community is in favor of it, and my hope is that it will be unanimously supported, and that we will be joining the 12 states that already have this measure.
The federal government's experience alone should show us that we can benefit from this kind of measure. The federal government adopted a False Claims Act during the Civil War when it was the victim of corrupt contracting, and it has recovered billions of dollars, about $1.34 billion during the previous fiscal year alone, and it's a measure I think that we cannot afford to avoid passing this year when we need this money more than ever.
And I hope the Legislature will adopt it because it's the right thing to do, but also because it will produce millions of dollars for the State of Connecticut that we desperately need at this point in our history, and it will deter wrongdoing that deprives taxpayers of funds that are lost through corrupt conduct. Thank you.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you very much, Mr. Attorney General. The, my recollection is that we passed this bill out of this Committee last year. I believe we got it out of the Senate, and if I recall correctly, it died because of just too many bills in the House at the end of last Session. I may have a mis-recollection, but that was my recollection.
I certainly appreciate you being here advocating yet again on behalf of this bill and the people of the state depend on you. So thank you very much.
I think most people have pretty much gotten the subject, but I appreciate your testimony today.
RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: Thank you, Senator.
SEN. MCDONALD: Are there any questions from members of the Committee? If not, thank you.
RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.
SEN. MCDONALD: I see Representative Bye is here.
REP. BYE: Good afternoon. I want to thank you, Chairman McDonald and Chairman Lawlor and members of the Committee, for giving me the chance to testify before you today.
I don't know if you got my testimony. I'm a preschool teacher at the Picture Book. Two pictures. I'm confident that you can read this testimony in your packet today, and the pictures are meaningful because it's a picture of my marriage day, and a picture of my family, and I'm here today to voice my strong support for Senate Bill Number 899.
But mostly I'm here to thank you, the members of this Committee for your work over the past ten years working to assure that all Connecticut residents have equal rights.
You've worked on issues of job discrimination, adoptions, civil unions and marriage.
I don't know if you all remember, but two years ago I sat before you and explained that civil unions offered a separate class, and what it felt like to be other.
And I sit here today with my marriage license. The Supreme Court passed marriage. This was a marriage performed by Jonathan Harris, so he hangs it on the wall in his office because it was the first marriage license issued to a gay couple in Connecticut this year, this past November.
I don't believe we would have made the progress we've made in Connecticut without the hard work of this Committee, and I'm just so grateful.
Marriage is meaningful, just as these pictures are meaningful. The top picture shows my daughters and son and my wife, Tracy, and my sister Jackie who was the maid of honor, and brother-in-law Matt who was the best man at our wedding.
And when we wanted to turn our civil union into a marriage, we thought, well, we'll just go to town hall on the morning and Tracey wanted to be first, because she's the Town Historian, so we'll just go down ourselves.
Well, when we told our children that we were going to just go down ourselves to do, turn the civil union into a marriage, they were furious, and so this picture is meaningful because I think it signifies what marriage means to our children. We knew it meant a lot to us, but for them to say, no, no, we want to be sure. We want to be sure to be there. So I thought that picture was important.
The other thing I just want to be sure to say again is marriage has meaning. Marriage has meaning to my family, and marriage has meaning in our culture and marriage has meaning in our state and to my family, and my daughters' wanting to be there was a real sign of this.
The other sign was, we thought we'll just go down and get married, but then I had a call from my friend, Linda, that morning, and she said, you know, Beth, if you were going to get married, I didn't want to have to read it on the CNN scroll, and that's a real sign that marriage is a story because marriage has meaning in our culture.
So, I'll stop there. I'm mostly here today to say thank you and to say these provisions in this bill are really important to me and my family, and to others, so thank you.
SEN. MCDONALD: Well, thank you very much. I just have one question. Why wasn't I invited to your wedding?
REP. BYE: I'm sorry, Mr. Chairman. We were trying to be quiet and it was all quiet until the New York Times called, and then it wasn't. But we are grateful to have Jonathan Harris there. We think a sign also, that this hasn't just been a movement of the Supreme Court.
It really has been the work of the Legislature and this Committee to help move this forward in Connecticut.
SEN. MCDONALD: I appreciate that Representative Bye, and I do think it's important that we acknowledge that what we do here actually matters in the lives of real people, even State Representatives.
So congratulations to you and to your wife. Are there questions? I believe Representative Gonzalez had a question, then Senator Gomes.
REP. GONZALEZ: Good morning, Representative, how are you?
REP. BYE: Good morning, Representative Gonzalez.
REP. GONZALEZ: I do have a couple of questions, but first I want to say that as a colleague and as a friend, my first question is, and I think it is not, you know, a secret that we have different opinions.
REP. BYE: Sure.
REP. GONZALEZ: Okay. And as far as I know, you've been here for a couple of years now, two terms, right?
REP. BYE: This is my second term.
REP. GONZALEZ: And we're friends.
REP. BYE: Yes.
REP. GONZALEZ: Okay. But we friends but we disagree on certain issues. You have your opinion. I have mine. Because we have different opinions, do you think that it is okay not being friends or to respect each other because I have a different opinion?
REP. BYE: No. I think people are welcome to different opinions.
REP. GONZALEZ: Okay. And I will say why I'm asking this question.
REP. BYE: Sure.
REP. GONZALEZ: I do respect you a lot and I like you a lot.
REP. BYE: I always worry if all that's set up.
REP. GONZALEZ: And I'm saying that, you know, you're entitled to your life. I don't think that people should criticize you and everybody should respect each other.
But me as a State Representative, if I don't support the gay and lesbian, the marriage between gay and lesbian, they make me feel like I'm a bad person?
REP. BYE: Do I see you as a bad person?
REP. GONZALEZ: Yes.
REP. BYE: Absolutely not. I think you're entitled to your beliefs, and I think that's one of the nice things. I really believe up here we've had respectful discussions and respectful disagreements on this issue and others. That's why we have elected Representatives.
REP. GONZALEZ: Thank you. And we, you know, I will say that we live in a democratic system. We have the right to agree and disagree, but that doesn't mean because we disagree I'm a bad person or I don't like you.
And my other question is, you know, some, not all but some gay and lesbians, they said that if we don't support them, that we are violating their rights. That's a comment out there always.
And I will ask you as a Representative and a friend, do you think that I violate your rights because I don't agree with you?
REP. BYE: No, I don't believe you violate my rights because you don't agree with me. Where we disagree is that I believe I have the right to a marriage, just as you have a right to a marriage. So that's maybe where we disagree.
If you talk about a disagreement, then I assume this is what you're talking about.
REP. GONZALEZ: Yes. So that means that you know you kind of agree with me in a way, not because I don't support, or you know, because I don't support, I'm against it.
I've got gay, I've got lesbian in my family and I love her to death. Yes. And I will never allow anybody to disrespect her or go against her or mistreat her. I will never allow or I will never do something like that to anybody. It doesn't matter. And that's why I'm saying I respect you.
But, people will say that me, I violate the gay and lesbian rights. But my question to you is, what about my rights? What about the other peoples' rights?
You know, if we respect, we have to respect each other, and it's out there, there's a feeling out there that if we don't support, we're violating the gay and lesbian rights, and I don't think that that should. I don't violate anybody's rights.
But also I'm saying, you know, yes, we respect your rights, but you have your rights, you have your opinions. But the thing is that if I would say I violate that gay and lesbian rights, then I would say who is violating my rights?
Who is violating the people's right, the people that have different opinions than the gay and lesbians? I think that we can, you know, work all together, and stop, you know, accusing people, stop going after people, because they don't respect, not that they don't respect, because they don't believe, or they don't have the same opinions.
I think that this world is for everybody, you know, and I think that we have to learn with each other for respecting each other, and not going after people that don't believe or they don't agree. Not only they don't agree with the gay and lesbians. Do you agree with me, Representative?
REP. BYE: If I can just respond, Representative Gonzalez. I think my basic argument is that I didn't believe that the laws that were on the books of the State of Connecticut protected my rights, and because of that, I've worked to try to make those laws allow me the same rights and opportunities and access to the word marriage in my life.
And so it's the laws that I believe needed to change, not individuals, and so part of our legal system that is the court system, recognized that and I took great, I was joyful, more than joyful because of that. It was a wonderful thing that happened in the State of Connecticut.
I'm sad that there are people in my same situation who live in other states where that's not the law of the land. But I'm here today to say, I'm so glad to live in Connecticut because in Connecticut right now, and forever, I will be allowed the right to marriage.
So I would say I don't disrespect you in any way. I have great respect for your work. I did not agree with the laws that were on the books, and I'm here to sort of express my gratitude to this Committee for recognizing the rights of gay and lesbian couples who wanted to marry or adopt, or who face job discrimination.
I personally face job discrimination around this. So I'm grateful that, that's why I'm here today, to say thank you to the Committee. Even if you voted against it, I get that, and I'm still here to say thank you as a member of the Committee, and I hope you can, you know, accept my joy at having access to that--
REP. GONZALEZ: You have the right.
REP. BYE: --wonderful, cultural thing of marriage.
REP. GONZALEZ: It's your right. It's your right, and I respect that. I think you, you know, that's your right and I respect that. But I really also appreciate that you respect my opinion.
In trying to change the law here, which I don't have a problem, but I think it also goes to the people to know that as a State Representative we both work together. I respect you. You respect me. We don't have no problem, and why the world can't be like that, you know, accepting each other?
REP. BYE: And I would argue that through this process I've learned the different opinions on this and I've received emails and things that weren't always respectful. But the vast, vast majority, vast, vast majority of people who contact me and contact you, I imagine do it in a respectful way, but there always are going to be a few who don't communicate in a respectful way.
So I've learned in life that sometimes you just have to let that go and appreciate that the vast majority of the people have had this dialogue in a way that I think the State of Connecticut can be really proud of.
REP. GONZALEZ: Thank you, Representative.
REP. BYE: Thank you, Representative.
SEN. MCDONALD: Senator Gomes.
SEN. GOMES: Hi, Beth.
REP. BYE: Hi, Senator Gomes. How are you doing?
SEN. GOMES: I wanted to congratulate you and I'm glad that the efforts of this Committee have made you happy. You've been a good friend and a good, a very State Rep up here.
I want to make some comments on what the bill meant to me, or what we were fighting for up here.
Just as Representative Gonzalez had said, some people use this issue to say, if you don't do what I say to do you violate my rights, or you're violating somebody's rights.
I'm Catholic, and you know some of the battles I went through last year on this issue. I believe that everybody has the right to live their lives the way they want to live their life.
And some people are heterosexual. Some people are homosexual. And the thing of it is, whatever you choose to be or that God has made, have you to be in this life, you have a right to your own life.
I don't have the right to sit here and tell you because I am Catholic, and I believe that you should live the way I think that you should live. And I felt like, when I was in the battle last year, that some of the people were using this religious aspect to say, you are wrong because the Bible tells you this.
Different interpretations of the Bible and people have had different interpretations of the Bible to suit themselves. And for you to wave the Bible in my face and tell me, this is what is, and you are wrong, and you should live this way because I believe in the Bible, and the Bible says you should not do this.
I'm pretty happy in my stands on this issue, and not because of the fact that it's something that glorifies me or something. I think it's something that we all should have been involved in because it was an issue for people to take sides on.
And if you feel like one side feels like they're right, and the other side feels like they're right. Fine. That's fine. Everybody has a right to their beliefs as Representative Gonzalez has just said.
But I think that people have to learn to live together and live separately. If you live together you respect each others issues, you respect each others lives, but don't tell me how to live mine.
And if you want to know why I was involved in that battle, there was a particular reason. Don't tell me how to live my life. I have an idea how to live my life. You have an idea how to live your life, and I feel like everybody in this room should respect that, and that's it. That's all I have to say. And you are a great Rep.
REP. BYE: Thank you, Senator Gomes. It's such a pleasure to serve with you and I appreciate your comments.
SEN. MCDONALD: Are there questions for Representative Bye? If not, thank you very much.
REP. BYE: Thank you, Senator.
SEN. MCDONALD: We are past the one hour, but I am going to ask Commissioner Lantz if her testimony is relatively brief. Okay, then we're going to squeeze in the last public official, Commissioner Lantz.
THERESA LANTZ: I guess I can say good afternoon now, Senator McDonald, Representative Lawlor, distinguished members of the Judiciary Committee.
I am Theresa Lantz. I'm the Commissioner of the Department of Corrections. I'm going to switch gears on the hearing a little bit and just let you know that I'm here to testify in support of the Governor's bill, House Bill Number 6381 An Act Concerning DNA Collection From Certain Convicted Individuals.
Very briefly, this bill addresses the taking of DNA samples of offenders at the front end of an offender's incarceration, post conviction, rather than at the back end, to assist the law enforcement agencies in solving criminal cases in a timely manner.
The Governor proposes an increase in the penalty from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class D felony for refusing to submit to the taking of a sample, and it would permit the Commissioner of Corrections to use reasonable force to collect a sample when an offender continues to refuse to submit to the taking of a sample.
Currently, there's no real incentive to cooperate if an offender comes in with a long sentence and has concerns about being identified for another crime.
If a felon or sex offender refuses to comply with the law, the only mechanism to obtain compliance is the ability of a Class A misdemeanor prosecution. For offenders who have already been convicted of felony offenses, an additional misdemeanor charge is not likely to deter their actions of non-compliance.
The refusal to provide DNA sampling should amount to a felony offense and will more likely result in compliance by offenders.
If the offender still refuses to comply with the law, the Department of Corrections should be able to use reasonable force to collect a DNA sample. Reasonable force is to be used after all other interventions fail as an option to ensure compliance.
The public will benefit, as more collections will result in a more complete database, and hopefully, more crimes will be solved.
It also will eliminate undue delay in DNA testing procedures and reduce the legal challenges. Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today in support of the Governor's bill, House Bill Number 6381, and I'd be happy to answer questions. And I also have my expert with me if you have any specific questions that I can't answer.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you very much, Commissioner. I appreciate your brief testimony, in light of all the members of the public who are here.
Were you here when Kevin Kane testified?
THERESA LANTZ: I was.
SEN. MCDONALD: Did the Department of Corrections participate in the drafting of Senate Bill Number 906.
THERESA LANTZ: We gave our, the intent of that bill clearly supports our mission and what we would like to see happen with my ability to collect DNA. That bill is actually a little bit broader in where it's collected, but it does support what I'm trying to do, and that is to ensure that we get a timely DNA sample.
SEN. MCDONALD: So you're supportive of that bill as well?
THERESA LANTZ: Yes.
SEN. MCDONALD: Okay. Thank you very much. Senator Kissel?
SEN. KISSEL: Thank you. That was my question.
SEN. MCDONALD: Okay. Representative Lawlor.
REP. LAWLOR: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Good afternoon, Commissioner.
THERESA LANTZ: Good afternoon.
REP. LAWLOR: Just a, as a practical matter, I'm curious. Under the current rules you're allowed to require inmates to provide DNA samples, but I guess at the moment just prior to the release is what happens. Is that right?
THERESA LANTZ: Well, yes. The law states that we're to collect a sample, and we've been doing it close to the discharge timeframe, because it gives us an, there's nothing that motivates them to give it any earlier. They can refuse, and the refusal results in a fairly lengthy administrative and judicial process that we would have to go through.
And so, what I was hoping is that this bill would allow us at least in this part, the Governor's bill, would allow us to be able to, it would raise the motivation because it would go from a misdemeanor for noncompliance to a felony noncompliance, but at the same time that I would have the ability, legally, to use reasonable force after multiple refusals, and therefore would not have to go through the courts system and you know, having the police come in, you know, charge the individual and then have to go through a lengthy court system.
REP. LAWLOR: So you don't, do you have the ability now to physically restrain an inmate--
THERESA LANTZ: Not without a judicial order.
REP. LAWLOR: And how often do the inmates refuse at the moment?
THERESA LANTZ: We've had at least 35 refusals.
REP. LAWLOR: And how do those all end up resolving themselves?
THERESA LANTZ: Well, most of them, they do after we've gone through the arrest, and gone through some process, some criminal process. Most of them have complied. We still have some refusals.
REP. LAWLOR: Okay. All right. Thank you.
SEN. MCDONALD: Any other questions? Senator Meyer.
SEN. MEYER: Commissioner, would it be a fair view to say that while fingerprints were the criminal identification measure of the 20th century, that DNA is the criminal identification measure of the 21st century?
THERESA LANTZ: Well, certainly it's an enhanced scientific process, so I would say that it does give you a better sense. It's another tool in the criminal justice system that they can use.
So, sure, I think it is an enhanced ability to do prosecution.
SEN. MEYER: And it's been our practice in law enforcement in this country to take fingerprints at the time of an arrest, as you know, and a person gets photographed and fingerprints taken.
And I guess what I'm asking you, as a matter of good criminal justice policy, protective of both the defendant and protective of society, why aren't we, why aren't you supporting a bill that would allow the taking of DNA at the time of a felony arrest?
THERESA LANTZ: I'm not involved in the arrest process. I'm only involved in the Corrections process, you know, the pre-trial and/or the incarceration process.
I would really leave that up to the Legislature to make that decision rather than me.
SEN. MEYER: Okay. Thanks.
SEN. MCDONALD: Anything further? Representative Conway.
REP. CONWAY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Good morning, Commissioner.
THERESA LANTZ: Hi.
REP. CONWAY: Nice to see you again.
THERESA LANTZ: You, too.
REP. CONWAY: A quick question if you could. The two percent or so that do not comply, I think in your testimony, 98 percent do.
Have we ever discovered why they are refusing other than just to be disruptive, or do you think there's possible, in the back of their mind, thoughts that there's additional things out there that could be found if they do submit to it?
THERESA LANTZ: I would believe that the latter is the truth, is that they have concerns that they might be picked up on something else, especially if they have a long felony record or conviction for a serious felony, that this would be a mechanism for them to delay them being identified in any other cases.
REP. CONWAY: So somebody coming in doing 30 to 40 years really has no, right now, reason to--
THERESA LANTZ: No incentive whatsoever. Absolutely none. And then for us to take it, we would have to go through, like I said, we'd have to go through the whole process of calling the State Police in, make an arrest, a charge, go through the courts. It's not an easy, you know, because a misdemeanor may not mean anything.
And then if they're, if I had to do something else, I would then have to go into the court for an order to mandate, to give me the authority to take it, and right now I do not have that authority without having to go through what I consider to be a very lengthy, time consuming, and it ties up valuable resources in the judicial system.
REP. CONWAY: And just a point more for the Committee, too, in reading the current version of Senate Bill Number 906, while it does now include the Class D language it does not include, in the version we have, that I have from online, the use of force.
THERESA LANTZ: I think Kevin Kane did testify that that was one of the provisions. That was what I had agreed. That's one of the collaborations that we had talked about is that the bill also includes that the Department could use reasonable force after interventions and after noncompliance.
And it wouldn't just be a one-time, you know, refusal. You know, our protocols would include multiple opportunities to comply, but then you know, at some point you have to draw the line.
REP. CONWAY: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you. Senator Gomes.
SEN. GONMES: I want to check what time would it be before I say good morning or good afternoon. Good afternoon.
THERESA LANTZ: Good afternoon.
SEN. GOMES: I heard Senator Meyer just ask you about the difference between taking a DNA at point of a criminal being apprehended and after being convicted and being incarcerated, and fingerprints, would you agree that fingerprints are used when a person is apprehended to link them to the crime that they are accused of?
THERESA LANTZ: I'm sure that it's one of many, you know--
SEN. GOMES: Or any, or any--
THERESA LANTZ: Any evidence.
SEN. GOMES: --or even DNA if DNA was used at that initial point of a person being apprehended for a crime. That would be used, too.
What I'm trying to get at is the difference between a person being apprehended for a crime and being accused of a crime, and evidence being produced against them at that time, and now a person being incarcerated for a crime that he's been convicted of.
Do you think there's a difference in collecting DNA at this point as opposed to the point when he was apprehended for a crime before he was convicted? There's a difference.
THERESA LANTZ: Well, certainly there's a difference in the fact of how you're using your resources. If you're going to, you know, do a DNA, which I would not do at the time of conviction.
You know, I'm basically only speaking on behalf of what my responsibility is on this per law. I would not do a DNA at the time of arrest because that's not part of my process.
SEN. GOMES: And why is it you consider this your duty at this point of time to use a DNA? For what purposes?
THERESA LANTZ: The DNA, the law says now that when DNA, I, we need to collect the DNA prior to discharge for felony convictions if they haven't already submitted a sample. And so that's my responsibility as the Department of Correction Commissioner.
If I have them apprehended and there's no DNA on file, then prior to their discharge, I am to comply with the law and obtain a DNA sample.
SEN. GOMES: Only at the point of discharge.
THERESA LANTZ: No, it's before discharge.
SEN. GOMES: Before discharge.
THERESA LANTZ: Right. It's basically post conviction, prior to discharge from the incarceration.
SEN. GOMES: But that doesn't mean right after they're incarcerated. That means just prior to them being discharged.
THERESA LANTZ: It doesn't mean that you have to take it right away, but it does say that I'm supposed to take it prior to discharge, so that's what the current law says.
SEN. GOMES: Goes that mean that I get convicted of a crime, you incarcerate me, and two days after I'm incarcerated you can take the DNA?
THERESA LANTZ: I believe I can. Yes. I can take it two days, or I can take it ten years, as long as it's taken prior to discharge.
THERESA LANTZ: When you have approached these people that are incarcerated for the DNA, have you approached them at that early a time after they're incarcerated?
THERESA LANTZ: Not usually. Usually, we're doing it toward the end of sentence, when there's a discretionary release discharge.
SEN. GOMES: Now you say not usually.
THERESA LANTZ: No.
SEN. GOMES: Not usually means that you have done it at some time.
THERESA LANTZ: Only for sex offenders.
SEN. GOMES: Sex offenders?
THERESA LANTZ: Yes. Let me do this for you since you've got some technical questions. This is Mr. Fred Levesque. He pretty much oversees our population management and also he's over the DNA programs that we have in the agency. He can answer all the technical questions.
SEN. GOMES: All right. I'll say this, now. I can see, now that you've explained the reason for the DNA prior to discharge onto the street, the law says that you're supposed to collect it.
I'd like to know if you did collect it, like I said, two days after he was incarcerated, why?
FRED LEVESQUE: Well, again, to assist the law enforcement agency in trying to bring some of these cases that may be court cases or any cases that are opened that we would be able to compare the evidence with the national and state database.
If we can get the offenders to comply as soon as they came in, we would be able to run their DNA and start comparing it against any evidence. It would not delay the review of that DNA.
Currently, what the DNA when a person's getting close to discharge or being considered per discretionary release program, and that's the incentive for them to be compliant.
What we fear is that if we try to collect DNA on an offender, who say, just picked up a 30 or 40 year sentence, there would be no incentive for the offender to give the DNA.
Again, as the Commissioner has mentioned, the only penalty we could enforce on that offender is a Class A misdemeanor. The worst case scenario for that offender would be to get a one-year consecutive sentence to their current offense, so there really is no incentive, especially if the offender feels that there is some evidence out there that would link their DNA to that crime.
SEN. GOMES: All right. I know I'm getting, but I'm trying to understand something. If you collect, if you go to a person who is incarcerated a couple of days after he's been incarcerated for a crime that he's been convicted of, and you ask for his DNA, do you do it with, was he accompanied by the police that he has committed a crime somewhere else, or are you just fishing?
FRED LEVESSQUE: Well, basically a statute requires the Commissioner to collect a DNA, so it's, you know, it's not our belief that we're fishing. We're basically following the statute, the law, of the statute.
Again, under our existing policy we don't request the DNA as soon as they walk in the door two or three days later, as you have mentioned, with the exception of those individuals who are sex offenders, which is a different policy within our Department.
But again, this is not fishing. This is just being compliant with the statute, and the statute requires the Commissioner to collect DNA for offenders who have been convicted, not people who are on pre-trial status or on accused status, just for those offenders who have been convicted of either a sex offense or a felony.
SEN. GOMES: Does the law itself on the collection of DNA for an incarcerated individual differentiate between a sex offender and somebody that's convicted of some other crime?
FRED LEVESQUE: There are two separate statutes. There's 54-102g and 54-250. One deals just with the collection of sex offenders and felon convictions.
And 54-250 addresses all those individuals who are convicted for sex offenses and all the different offenses against, minors, charges that may be imposed by the courts, two separate statutes.
SEN. GOMES: So you're saying that you use one statute just prior to being discharged and the other statute after a person, a sex offender has been incarcerated.
FRED LEVESQUE: We have two separate policies. There's a slight difference between those individuals who have to provide a sample because of a felony conviction, and we have a separate policy for those individuals who have to provide DNA samples due to a conviction of a sex offense.
SEN. GOMES: One more question and I'll leave it alone. A person who is not a sex offender, have you ever demanded a DNA from him, say in the same realm that if you had a sex offender?
What I'm saying is not just prior to discharge, but after he's been incarcerated?
FRED LEVESQUE: No, Sir.
SEN. GOMES: Thank you. You answered my question. A long way to get where I wanted to get.
SEN. MCDONALD: Are there, hopefully no more questions? Thank you very much, Commissioner.
THERESA LANTZ: Thank you very much.
SEN. MCDONALD: I apologize to the members of the public. I thought that was going to be briefer. I appreciate your indulgence.
We're going to move to the public section of the public hearing. The first person to testify is Patrice McCarthy.
PATRICE MCCARTHY: Good afternoon, Senator McDonald, Representative Lawlor, members of the Committee. I'm Patrice McCarthy representing the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education.
CABE certainly supports both the rights and the responsibilities of all students, and in fact over the years, I've given many workshops on that very topic.
CABE, however, does oppose Senate Bill Number 1056 because it would create a separate standard upon which to discipline student speech. This is an area that has been addressed extensively by the courts over the years beginning with the Tinker case in 1969 and most recently with the Second Circuit decision in the Doninger case, which Senator LeBeau has discussed with you.
The standard articulated in these cases is a discipline to be imposed when administrators reasonably forecast that speech will result in substantial disruption of the educational process, material interference with school activities or invasion of the rights of others.
It will create unnecessary confusion to introduce a new standard through legislation such as proposed in this bill. There is no case law to guide administrators as to what would be necessary to show that conduct is, and I quote “demonstrably likely to cause material and substantial disruption”, which the bill would allow discipline for, or what would constitute “mere inconvenience”, which would not be subject to discipline.
School boards through policy, and school administrators on a day-to-day basis are responsible for the safety, well being, and educational environment in their schools.
We are deeply concerned that this bill will inhibit their ability to maintain that appropriate educational environment. I know you'll hear later this afternoon from some building principals, who in fact have to maintain safety and order every day.
I remind you that last year the Legislature, when they re-examined the definition of bullying, included bullying that occurs in cyberspace, so the tools, it's important that school administrators maintain the tools necessary to protect the educational environment.
For these reasons we would urge you to reject this bill.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you very much for your testimony, and I appreciate your, the perspective. And you know, I think the world of CABE.
I've got to tell you that this legislation is before us because of what I perceive at least, as being a vast overreaching by an administrator, and we end up oftentimes with legislation in response to personal situations that people run into, right?
And so your testimony as I understood it said that the standard is that an administrator would have to reasonably forecast that it would be disruptive to the educational environment, right?
PATRICE MCCARTHY: Right.
SEN. MCDONALD: And under current law, well, first of all is that a standard, if you know, under the Federal Constitution or the State Constitution?
PATRICE MCCARTHY: It's under the case law. Both the federal and state cases have reported to that standard.
SEN. MCDONALD: That wasn't my question.
PATRICE MCCARTHY: I'm sorry.
SEN. MCDONALD: In those cases, if you know, was that standard applied under the Federal Constitution under the First Amendment, or under the State Constitution's right to freedom of speech.
PATRICE MCCARTHY: Off the top of my head I can't answer that, Senator.
SEN. MCDONALD: Okay. That's fine. You know, it seems to me that, well, let me ask you. Under the situation that Senator LeBeau outlined for us, and the student posted something on a blog, how, can you enunciate for me how that conduct was reasonably forecast to have a harmful impact on the environment, on the educational environment?
PATRICE MCCARTHY: My recollection of the facts were that that student encouraged the entire, that the entire student body was encouraged to take some action, which I can't actually remember what it was, and that that was the concern that that would be disruptive of the educational environment.
SEN. MCDONALD: Okay. Then maybe I can dig it out because my recollection was the student referred to the administrator as a d-bag.
PATRICE MCCARTHY: That, too.
SEN. MCDONALD: Right.
PATRICE MCCARTHY: That, too. That was also part of the message.
SEN. MCDONALD: Okay. So, but under that scenario, it's the determination of the administrator, whether they considered it to be disruptive to the school environment.
PATRICE MCCARTHY: That's right.
SEN. MCDONALD: What would happen if a student who is 18 years old, was running for a board of education and said that he or she thought that the superintendent was incompetent and needed to be fired. Would that be considered to be something that a student who was actively enrolled could be disciplined for under that reasonably forecast standard?
PATRICE MCCARTHY: Again, the judgment of that school, I would encourage all of us to defer to the judgment, rather than my judgment on those facts, to the school administrator in that setting, given all the other facts that are present.
I think that's what makes it so hard to make a determination here as to, should that be subject to discipline or not?
SEN. MCDONALD: Well, so you're saying, if I understand your response correctly, that an administrator wants to reserve the right to discipline a candidate for public office for speaking out on a matter of public concern.
PATRICE MCCARTHY: I think if they're a candidate for public office, and they're speaking in the political, if you would, small p political arena, that that would not be subject to discipline.
If they are targeting their comments only to members of the student body in an effort to create, and what may in fact lead to disruption in the school setting, then I think you have different facts.
SEN. MCDONALD: But you would still leave that discretion to the administrator to determine, regardless of whether or not it's politically protected free speech or not. Right?
I mean, politically protected free speech has the greatest protection under our Constitution.
PATRICE MCCARTHY: That's right. And I would hope that that school administrator would get good legal advice before they made that decision.
SEN. MCDONALD: Okay. I would have hoped that the administrator in that case that brought this legislation to it had gotten that legal advice, too, because we wouldn't have been faced with this situation in the first place.
PATRICE MCCARTHY: It's always better when they call before they act.
SEN. MCDONALD: What happens, in your experience has an administrator whose used that discretion ever been disciplined for the misuse of that discretion by a superior?
PATRICE MCCARTHY: I am certainly aware that there are times where administrators are counseled by their supervisors that a whole variety of conduct, actions they may have taken, may not in fact, be the intent in fulfilling the board's policy that they may have gone beyond the policy of the board, and it's counseled to strictly adhere to the policy in the future.
I can't tell you whether discipline per se has been imposed.
SEN. MCDONALD: Okay. And what would be CABE's position about students advocating against a budget referendum to vote down a budget referendum?
PATRICE MCCARTHY: I think students would have that right, and ability. I think there could be means that students use that could result in disruption in school, but there certainly would be other means. Coming to the board of ed, meeting and speaking against certain portions of the budget, going to the city council meeting and speaking against the budget, that those would all certainly be within the right of the students.
Sending an email to the entire student body urging them to walk out of school the next day or, you know, picket in the parking lot, that would be a different set of facts that might be viewed as disruptive of education.
SEN. MCDONALD: I appreciate your testimony. I know this is a difficult subject and I guess, I suspect I could go on for hours giving you examples that show the fallacy of the standards, and you could probably give me a thousand examples on the other side as well.
The fact is that ultimately in this new environment with the Internet, we're all trying to figure out where the line is because the line was moved at some point in time, and we're all, I suspect, trying to figure out how to appropriately respond to that newest set of circumstances, so I appreciate your testimony.
PATRICE MCCARTHY: Thank you, Senator.
SEN. MCDONALD: Representative Holder-Winfield was next.
REP. HOLDER-WINFIELD: Good afternoon. I'm missing something so maybe you could clear it up. The standard now is that you would have to reasonably forecast that there would be a disruption, correct?
PATRICE MCCARTHY: That there would be a substantial disruption.
REP. HOLDER-WINFIELD: Okay, a substantial disruption. Even better.
So what we're looking is you being able to demonstrably show that there would be a disruption, right?
PATRICE MCCARTHY: The language in this bill refers to a material and substantial disruption.
REP. HOLDER-WINFIELD: And the problem you have with that is what? I missed that part.
PATRICE MCCARTHY: Every time we introduce new language into the statutes, particularly around discipline, we create a whole new environment for the courts to interpret.
We have court interpretation of the existing language. New language, similar but somewhat different, obviously a legislative intent to create a different standard will certainly result not only in uncertainty at the local level in terms of well, how will we implement policies using this new language, but also certainly lead to additional litigation.
REP. HOLDER-WINFIELD: I'm away from that. The case that we've been talking about, the Doninger case--
PATRICE MCCARTHY: Right.
REP. HOLDER-WINFIELD: You indicated that there are ways for students to go about doing, go about voicing their opinion that are acceptable.
Would you say that if the students were upset about something and they wanted to encourage other students to write to the board for some reason, that would be acceptable?
PATRICE MCCARTHY: I think that would be acceptable, and I would find that much less disruptive than advocating some activity in the school building.
REP. HOLDER-WINFIELD: Well, the reason why it kind of strikes me as strange is because that's exactly what happened in this case. She did use the word d-bag, but then she went on to advocate that the students, should they be upset, voice their opinion by writing or calling in.
So, I'm sorry, go ahead.
PATRICE MCCARTHY: Go ahead.
REP. HOLDER-WINFIELD: So I don't know. I just don't, I'm not quite grasping it. It seems there is a fine change in the language. I get that. But I think that the change in the language has to do with making it more clear that there's actually a problem, demonstrably. When you put the word demonstrably in, I think it makes it that there's more of a burden on those of you on the opposite side of this to show that there's actually a problem.
And then, you know, you were talking, you let the discussion focus around a portion of time, what happened in the other case, and you talked about what would be the positive way of a student doing what students I think should have the ability to do, which is voice their opinion. I think they have, they should have that ability, which is exactly what happened.
So I'm not quite sure why you're in opposition to this bill.
PATRICE MCCARTHY: Well, I didn't, when you refer to students voicing their opinion and communicating with the school board as one very appropriate and acceptable form of communication, and absolutely within their rights, and another fact situation, which is encouraging their fellow students to, you know, call the principal's office.
I think you then have, you know, potential disruption in the eyes of some within the school setting, and on the other hand you have communication with the policymakers at a level, which really takes it outside of disrupting the daily educational environment, and that's what school administrators grapple with.
And I certainly concur with Senator McDonald's comments that in this era of new technologies, keeping pace both in law and policy with what's appropriate is a challenge to all of us.
REP. HOLDER-WINFIELD: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you. Representative Conway is next and Representative Morris.
REP. CONWAY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Good morning, or good afternoon now, excuse me.
PATRICE MCCARTHY: Good morning.
REP. CONWAY: Do you think that the language that's put before us in Senate Bill Number 1056 would have changed, had it been in place prior to the Doninger case would have changed the outcome at least of the Second Circuit Court's level?
PATRICE MCCARTHY: Okay. I'd want to go back and look at the court's reasoning again before I gave an opinion on that.
REP. CONWAY: What the finding was that her conduct was disruptive to the school in the actions of--
PATRICE MCCARTHY: Right.
REP. CONWAY: --not just the statements in the blog but what I believe amounted to the attempt to have sit-ins against the administration and possible misinformation distributed amongst the student population that certain things were cancelled as opposed to postponed, and that they found it to be disruptive.
So with the current, you think Senate Bill Number 1056 would have changed the outcome of that?
PATRICE MCCARTHY: In that case, given the reference to the sit-in within the school setting, I would hope that a court would have found even under the demonstrably likely language, that there was the likelihood of a substantial disruption, but I can't.
How courts rule based on slight changes in language is hard to predict in advance.
REP. CONWAY: Given that this all started with a blog, something on line that was, many, many blogs that are out there are anonymously responded to, and all of our newspapers on line, all of the websites that put news on line have comment sections in them for the purpose of generating public interest, comments, increase their number of hits for their own advertising purposes, and many again are through not having to sign up, necessarily, so we cannot track back where it came from, whether it was a student, whether it was an adult.
And if you read in any of the newspapers on line now, with regards to any of the school issues where people have responded to, you would not necessarily be able to tell whether the person responding is a student or a parent, and many of them are statements against boards of ed members in specific, identifying names in specific against administrators, against teachers.
And I don't find them to necessarily be supportive of those individuals if the comments you normally read, you can anticipate that they're going to be, if somebody's responding to the blogs they're probably going to be a negative comment that they're dissatisfied with something going on in that school.
And not being able to identify whether it's a parent or a student, do you think we should have a different level, regards to those types of comments, a different level of acceptance through freedom of speech for one and not the other?
PATRICE MCCARTHY: Well, to the extent they're anonymous comments that clearly that the school would not be able to discipline for them, and I would also point out that school boards don't expect their administrators nor do administrations to my knowledge spend their time trolling blogs, looking for a problem that they can impose discipline on.
These issues come to them. A student complains that they're being cyber bullied. A teacher comes and says, my whole class is talking about this posting that another student made on the Internet about me or about a classmate.
So I think the real, the only issue we can look at is, if the person making the original posting is identifiable and then determined whether or not their comments or action is appropriately subject to discipline under the district's policy.
REP. CONWAY: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you. Representative Morris.
REP. MORRIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Good afternoon.
PATRICE MCCARTHY: Good afternoon.
REP. MORRIS: A few questions. If you get involved in a case in terms of freedom of speech cases that you're aware of, do students have any of the recourse whenever they found an administrator made a poor decision, censored them when their actions were not disruptive?
In your experience, do you have any history where you can share with us that they have taken up some other legal recourse or something to address that sense of inequity or taking away their rights?
PATRICE MCCARTHY: There are certainly instances where students and their families appeal to a board of education, often beginning appealing to the principal to reconsider the discipline that has been imposed, and in some cases going to the superintendent and/or the board of the education with that request.
REP. MORRIS: So I would take that to conclude, would I take that to men that in general the experience throughout the State of Connecticut that most boards of ed have a existing policies that allow for some type of appeal internally to address this concern.
PATRICE MCCARTHY: For disciplines, it depends upon the level of discipline that's imposed. For a student to be expelled from school there has to be a hearing before the board of education. That's a board of ed action.
For a suspension or something less than that, that's a decision made at the administrative level by the building principal, but there is generally an opportunity for either the student and parent to have a discussion with the principal, and/or with the superintendent about that discipline.
REP. MORRIS: And again, just to kind of go a little further here though, because it sounds like you're saying even with a suspension it kind of stops with the principal. I work for a school district.
PATRICE MCCARTHY: Yeah.
REP. MORRIS: It's my understanding you pretty much have more due process rights than just at the first level with the principal. The principal, at the building level actually, you use your highest level and then go to the superintendent and use their board of education if necessary. Is that pretty much the standard throughout the state?
PATRICE MCCARTHY: Other than expulsion, discipline matters generally do not go to the board of education in terms of the case itself going to the board.
Certainly parents and students can come to the board of education and encourage the board to reconsider policies, for example, but we consider what constitutes a suspense, an offense that would be subject to suspension. But not the case, not that individual student case. That would stop with the superintendent.
REP. MORRIS: Okay. So in terms of the case, you know, kind of taking a look at this legislation or anything similar to that where a student is taking off of student government or something like that, are there standard processes that, for appeal in boards of this case throughout the state, a method of recourse other than going to court?
PATRICE MCCARTHY: The process would be appeal the decision at the building level and then go to the superintendent.
REP. MORRIS: Okay. Now, other than free speech, all right, you maybe answered this question earlier, I want to make certain of that, but other than free speech, are there other rights of students that are ignored at times that you may be aware of and do the students in those cases have the same measures of recourse that you just stated?
PATRICE MCCARTHY: Any discipline imposed through school policy, discipline for any type of conduct, would have that same process. Again, the expellable offenses involve a hearing by the board of education before the action is taken. Discipline below that is a building administrator decision with generally the opportunity to have the superintendent review it.
REP. MORRIS: Okay, And let me give you the rationale for the question, the way I phrased it there and you may want to comment on that. Because I'm trying to see, is there any difference between free speech and whether we're recognizing free speech properly and what recourse students have, what processes are available.
Is it any different with other rights that students have that are civilly protected and the processes that are available to them?
Because in my mind, I would say, gee, if those processes are there for everything else and it's just the free speech and it's equitable, then why would be considering doing something different here.
Because if that's the case we should be looking at everything, all right? So if you have any comment.
PATRICE MCCARTHY: I'm afraid we're about to open the Pandora's box, but no. To my knowledge the process is the same no matter what the type of alleged misconduct is, whether it be a speech issue or an alleged assault, or whatever.
REP. MORRIS: So then our consideration of doing this would be taking one aspect of behavior that a student may have and treating it differently than other behaviors that students normally have--
PATRICE MCCARTHY: That's right.
REP. MORRIS: --on a typical student day. Okay. In terms of the type of speech, I mean, certainly in the case that's before us I don't agree with what the administrator did. I think it should have been protected. I think they took the wrong steps.
However, certain speech, I think, I mean, certain speech should be allowed outside of school buildings, where it isn't being disruptive.
Would you be amenable to the language that's in this bill if it clarified that the speech must fall within the same parameters if we're protecting it, the same parameters that we do have within a school building?
For example, that is respectful, it isn't insubordinate type of speech. I mean, certainly something you call political, I'm saying, listen, I disagree with the policies. I disagree, you know, with the way Miss so and so handled such and such a thing without naming students, appropriate things to say. The student wasn't disrespectful, but now when I start calling her a d-bag, I've now become disrespectful and that's something that would be a suspendable offense in most school districts.
PATRICE MCCARTHY: The question is would I be comfortable with language that--
REP. MORRIS: That clarified that the speech is protected, provided it doesn't conflict with typical behavioral standards that we have within our school system as it relates to disrespect.
PATRICE MCCARTHY: Right.
REP. MORRIS: In other words, I'm promoting something political. It pretty much goes to, the question that Senator McDonald asked, you know, which he's talking about someone who was running for the board.
But what if the kid even wasn't running for the board. This student says, you know what? I disagree with the superintendent. I think his policy is horrible and I think he should be terminated.
PATRICE MCCARTHY: I think I'd want to think a little bit about what that language would look like that would achieve both what you're talking about and avoid making it extremely difficult for a building administrator to determine what offense that they can discipline for and what isn't.
REP. MORRIS: But we don't already have that standard? Because currently administrators are using administrative discretion right now--
PATRICE MCCARTHY: Yes.
REP. MORRIS: --to determine what is insubordinate behavior, what is disrespectful behavior, what is vulgar behavior or vulgarity in speech that they're directing, whether toward other students or staff. Don't we already have that standard?
PATRICE MCCARTHY: I think there might be a way. What I'd want to do is talk to some building administrators about some of those, some of those day-to-day cases that would fall into that category.
REP. MORRIS: Yeah. Okay. And again, if I, unfortunately, I understand this concers that CABE brings and quite frankly, to a large degree I support exactly where you're at, because I get involved in a lot of these cases and I understand what happens with My Space and the indirect, whereas even though I'm asking the question, I can clearly see where you're calling Mrs. Jones is a d-bag and everybody starts calling her a d-bag and before you know it, you've got everybody in town calling her d-bag and they've never met Miss Jones.
And indirectly, indirectly, you know, everyone begins treating Miss Jones in a different way and it can disrupt education and we didn't expect that, and I do find this language tough, because how do you then materially and substantially predict that that would have been the outcome? But thank you very much.
SEN. MCDONALD: Anything further? If not, thank you very much. Next is David Reynolds, followed by Anne Stanback.
DAVID REYNOLDS: Senator McDonald, members of the Committee, my name is David Reynolds. I'm Legislative Liaison with the Connecticut Catholic Conference, and I'm here to address you today concerning Senate Bill Number 899.
As you're well aware the Connecticut Catholic Conference has for many years come before this Committee to express its profound opposition to legal recognition of same sex civil unions and marriages in our state.
Despite the October 2008 Connecticut Supreme Court ruling legalizing same sex marriage, the Catholic Church in Connecticut still holds firm to its opposition to these unions.
The State Supreme Court may have provided the advocates of same sex marriage a civil victory, but it did not provide a victory over the hearts and minds of many people in our state who, in obedience to their religious beliefs, will never fully accept the civil institution.
This Committees, in codifying the Kerrigan ruling needs to address this profound conflict between civil law and deeply held religious beliefs of many citizens within our state.
The Catholic Conference encourages this Committee not to view the conflict as one driven by hate, but by sincere and faith driven beliefs held by many people. Even the Supreme Court in the Kerrigan decision recognized this that when they stated that same sex marriage is a subject about which persons of good will reasonably and sincerely disagree.
This Committee should uphold the proud tradition our state has in protecting religious liberties. The state should not force individuals or certain organizations through punitive or coercive action to violate deeply held religious beliefs.
To this end, the Conference is recommending some changes to Section 7 in the proposed legislation, which currently exempts clergy from the necessity to perform same sex marriages.
We feel that section should be expanded and be made more inclusive. It should includes first of all, any person that is authorized in this statute to perform a marriage. This includes justices of the peace.
For example, a Catholic justice of the peace should not be forced to relinquish their office because they will not perform a same sex marriage in direct violation of their faith.
In addition, Section 7 should prohibit any person, such as a wedding photographer or religious affiliate organization or charity, from being coerced to comply or cooperate with the new public policy of the state recognizing same sex marriage, and it should, if it would violate their religious belief and tenets.
A situation has been created by the Kerrigan decision where state policy seriously conflicts with religious beliefs of a large number of citizens within the state. The Catholic Conference asks this Committee to recognize and address this conflict as it moves to consider Senate Bill Number 899. It asks this Committee to respect our state's proud history of protecting religious freedom.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you very much, Mr. Reynolds. I appreciate your testimony today. I had a couple of questions with respect to the, I'm scouring Senate Bill Number 899 and I'm actually trying to figure out where in the language of the bill you believe that deeply held religious beliefs are being undermined. Can you point to the section of the bill where that is?
DAVID REYNOLDS: It's not outlined in the section of the bill, Senator. It's, from looking around what has happened in other states concerning, that allow civil unions, same sex marriages, which are just two right now, but also same sex commitment ceremonies.
There have been situations around the country and even in other countries where because you had a legalized institution such as civil unions where people who do not cooperate, they, an example was recently in 2008 in New Mexico a photographer was asked to take pictures of a commitment ceremony. He said he couldn't do it because it was a violation of his religious beliefs.
The couple took him to the State Commission on Human Rights in Nebraska, I mean New Mexico, and he was eventually fined, I believe it was $6,000 and ordered by the state that he can no longer refuse to do those or he should shut his business down.
There's different stories like that that I could expand on. So that's where the church, as we look at the bill, says this institution now becomes public policy. What happens to people that say, I really can't cooperate in that situation.
In New Jersey, where they do have civil unions, you had a Methodist organization where two lesbian couples wanted to use an area of boardwalk area on the beach that the Methodist organization owned and used and they said we can't do that because that's a cooperation and in a civil union, which our church happens to not, disagrees with.
So in that case, I believe the state did fine them. They removed their tax exempt status, and they were forced to pay $20,000 in back taxes.
So I'm asking here, I guess, for the Committee to be proactive on this issue so that we're not back here a year or two from now listening to stories that may occur within Connecticut, so we could be proactive and secure those liberties.
SEN. MCDONALD: So you're proposing that we--
DAVID REYNOLDS: Add language to it.
SEN. MCDONALD: Okay. Do you have the language?
DAVID REYNOLDS: We have some proposed language that we'd be willing to discuss.
SEN. MCDONALD: Have you shared that with the Committee?
DAVID REYNOLDS: I'd be willing to share it with the Committee.
SEN. MCDONALD: Okay. Well, I mean I do think it's frankly incumbent. If you're going to make those suggestions, it would have been more helpful had we had the language so that we could talk intelligently about it at the public hearing where all of this is going to be addressed. So please leave that language with our Clerk and we'll be happy to make sure it gets distributed and we can debate it in the Committee meeting.
DAVID REYNOLDS: Sure.
SEN. MCDONALD: But I guess what, do you believe that Connecticut's CHRO statute would be interpreted the same as somebody in New Mexico, I think you said?
DAVID REYNOLDS: In New Mexico.
SEN. MCDONALD: What makes you believe that it would be treated the same in Connecticut?
DAVID REYNOLDS: The exact statute? I guess when we look around, we're not, I cannot say if that statute would be the exact same. I don't know what the New Mexico statute or regulations are in New Mexico.
SEN. MCDONALD: Well, but you rolled this out as a--
DAVID REYNOLDS: But it's (inaudible) to the courts, too. I believe the decision in New Jersey was through the court. So I mean it's various legal avenues that can be used for this purpose.
SEN. MCDONALD: Okay, but you rolled it out as something that we need to be concerned about and need to proactively stop, but I don't know how you're landing that into the exact statutes we have in Connecticut or case law that we have in Connecticut.
I understand the rhetorical appeal of reciting anecdotes from other states, but we have a pretty good sense of what the statutes are in Connecticut and what the case law is in Connecticut, so can you ground any of your comments in Connecticut case law or statutes that would substantiate the position you're advocating?
DAVID REYNOLDS: In terms of state, our statutes not at this moment. Again, we're viewing it as a proactive statement.
SEN. MCDONALD: And with respect to the suggestion that we should expand on Section 7 of the bill to any person who, I think it was Section 7, to any person who would have a religious objection to performing a marriage.
You cite to Section 46d-22 of the General Statutes, which outline the individuals who are eligible to solemnize a marriage, a civil marriage. We're not talking about religious marriage, right?
DAVID REYNOLDS: Right.
SEN. MCDONALD: So in that list are included judges. Is it your position that judges of the Superior Court are not obligated to adhere to a decision of the Connecticut Supreme Court?
DAVID REYNOLDS: I think in that case, first of all, it's performing a marriage of primary purpose of the judge in hearing cases. I think there's a difference in a judge coming together to solemnize a marriage than sitting in judgment on a case, or a legal decision placed before him.
So of course, if it was a legal decision placed before him, he would have to, obviously use the Supreme Court precedent in case law. But if it was a couple asking could you marry us and perform a marriage, you know, that's not case law, that he should be, I believe, and Catholic Conference believes able to say, I personally cannot cooperate in that.
I think what we run into is, even with justices of the peace, judges, et cetera, you're basically saying and implying, I guess, if we don't address this issue, is that if I hold a faith, and I know that faith is contrary to this particular issue before us right here on this bill, then I should exclude myself from being a judge in the State of Connecticut. I should remove myself from being a justice of the peace.
Does the state really want to begin excluding, having people exclude themselves from public positions because of their religious beliefs?
SEN. MCDONALD: Okay. I mean, are you suggesting that a judge can cherry pick what parts of the Constitution they want to uphold in the exercise of their official duties and powers of an official officer of the state?
DAVID REYNOLDS: I think that's a difficult question. I'm saying where does the justice's right as an individual in the state, his personal religious beliefs, how does that interact with state law?
That's why we're asking these questions you're raising, are questions that I think we need further discussion, obviously, and that's why the Conference is raising them because these issues come up. Are we going to be here two years from now trying to discuss this in terms of legislation?
SEN. MCDONALD: Right. But I'm stuck on the judge thing, because a judge is required to leave his or her personal opinions and beliefs at the door before they take on the duties and mantle as a judge.
So if the powers of a judge are conferred by the Constitution and by the State Statutes, are you saying that a judge should allow, in this particular instance, allow personal beliefs to somehow interfere with the discharge of his or her constitutional and statutory duties?
DAVID REYNOLDS: Well, I don't know if the law, the law doesn't mandate that a judge perform marriages. It allows him to, if he wants to. It doesn't mandate that they have to perform it. So he can if he wants and if it becomes a conflict for him, just say I'm not willing to do marriages. Whereas as a judge he's required to sit on cases and make a ruling. It's part of his job. He's required to do that.
SEN. MCDONALD: And do you think any such decision by a judge to not perform a same sex civil marriage would be in keeping with the decision of the Supreme Court in the Kerrigan case?
DAVID REYNOLDS: I don't believe the Supreme Court actually even addressed the whole issue of religious liberties and conflicts in that case, so I can't say it would or would not.
SEN. MCDONALD: And what, you used the example of the photographer. What in this statute would, I'm sorry, what in this proposed legislation would lead you to believe that a photographer would be compelled to actually take photographs and actually accept the money for that commercial transaction?
SEN. MCDONALD: Well, it may be that he may be brought up on charges of discrimination on sexual orientation statutes, other statutes. Also, I think, you know, that the photographer in New Mexico who was sued probably never crossed his mind that, or people that enacted the civil unions in New Mexico, it probably never, or allowed the commitment ceremony, it never crossed their minds that some time I may be brought to a hearing before a state commission and ordered to do something against my beliefs and then fined to do it, or shut down my business.
Everything isn't clear in statute. Again, we're trying to look ahead and make sure this is soundly, we have a major conflict with this law, as we state in my testimony, that a significant number of people in the state who religiously will not accept this type of ruling of the court based on their religion.
SEN. MCDONALD: And you know, I think both in the conduct, in the discussions we've had with respect to civil unions and in this legislation with respect to civil marriage, at least from my own perspective, I think we've bent over backwards to not infringe on deeply held religious beliefs. That's why there's language in here saying that clergy can be excluded from that.
But I don't, I don't understand how a, the civil institution of marriage, and the discharge of statutory and constitutionally mandated rights are in any way diminished or compromised by somebody vested with the authority of the state, either as a judge of the superior court, or as a justice of the peace who has taken an oath to uphold the Constitution of the state, how that in any way involves deeply held religious beliefs.
Can you clarify that for me?
DAVID REYNOLDS: Well, I think many of us have different, varying religious beliefs. I mean, even within the Catholic community there's not agreement on how Catholics would react to this situation.
So I think if you look at the justices of the peace, the judges, or at the photographer or any other of these people, there was an innkeeper in Vermont in 2005, there's different situations. We can't predict what their beliefs are.
The underpinning of what has happened, I think in most of the cases that I've read about is that eventually it ended up to be some type of discrimination suit or logic that was used against a type of people that wanted to say, no, I can't cooperate in that. That's cooperation in something that I don't believe in.
And they weren't making judgments. From the articles that I've read or picked upon, there weren't a lot of judgment making. In fact, I believe the photographer, and there was a case I quickly mentioned, in Vermont with an innkeeper, when they said I can't, you know, we don't do that. It was a Catholic innkeeper in Vermont said no, we can't do that, you know, our family doesn't practice that. It was a bed and breakfast so he said, you know, I prefer to not do it.
He gave the people a list of great locations where they would do it, so it wasn't like it was a hateful act on the part of the people. It was just a response so that they're trying to live their life according to where they want to live according to their belief.
And I believe I heard Senator Gomes before speak about, you know, people should have their own freedom, to live according to their beliefs, and that's what we're looking for here.
We're not looking to prohibit somebody, to stop somebody, to make something harder for somebody to enact. We're looking that religion is respected in the law.
SEN. MCDONALD: And I understand that. But you're also saying that people can have differences of opinion, and I certainly agree with that and conscientious objection to public policy decisions that have been made.
I just, I'm trying to figure out where, if we were to accept your argument, where its logical conclusion would lead us. So let me take it to the next step.
Would, if we were to accept your argument, should we also entertain the possibility that justices of the peace who object to inter-racial marriages shouldn't have to perform inter-racial marriages because they think that blacks and whites ought not to be married because it's just objectionable to them? Do you advocate to that?
DAVID REYNOLDS: I think we have to look at that. I would say probably, is their faith unaware of one where that is a historical religious tenet, bona fide tenet within that faith not to participate in inter-racial marriages.
I mean, I don't see that, and maybe as we're discussing here is that I have a proposal. I have some draft language. Maybe it's working out these differences and questions you're asking are in the detail of the language that I drafted up.
The Conferences is saying that your effort, and we appreciate that the efforts to exclude the clergy is greatly appreciated but we just feel that it doesn't quite go far enough. We're looking for a little, you know.
SEN. MCDONALD: I guess I'm trying to figure out, are you hanging your hat more on the religious component of it, or on the conscience of the individual who is performing the marriage?
DAVID REYNOLDS: There would have to be, to us a direct, (inaudible). At least our vision is that opposition would be, you know, related to a bona fide religious faith.
SEN. MCDONALD: What's a bond fide religious faith?
DAVID REYNOLDS: Oh, I mean, it wouldn't just--
SEN. MCDONALD: What is it?
DAVID REYNOLDS: Catholic faith. In other words there's some history in true faith there. It's going to be person says, that's against my conscience because I hate lesbian or gay people, that type of thing, and that's what I believe. You know, it would have to connect, like Methodist we mentioned, the Methodist in New Jersey. It would have to be along those lines, of course.
SEN. MCDONALD: Okay. I thank you for your time. Representative Lawlor.
REP. LAWLOR: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Good afternoon, Mr. Reynolds. I just want to follow up because I'm intrigued sort of thinking about this awhile, and I've gotten a lot of feedback on both sides, people trying to come up with situations that might be in a category of unintended consequences and you certainly mentioned a few today, and I was kind of intrigued by this photographer guy down in New Mexico.
From your understanding, he was basically taking a position that him being, taking photographs of two people who as it turns out were gay and were getting a commitment ceremony, him taking the photos was a violation of his religious tenets, or other religious rules, that kind of thing?
DAVID REYNOLDS: Well, there's within a religious faith, there's a level of cooperation.
REP. LAWLOR: Could you tell me about that. Are there rules on that type of thing?
DAVID REYNOLDS: Well, they're, within the Catholic, I can only speak for the Catholic Church, of course, Representative, but within the Catholic Church it's a level of cooperation, and by doing something are you actively participating in that action.
The photographer felt that yes, he was actively participating in that civil union, helping them celebrate that ceremony, so it was along those lines that he said, you know, anybody that goes to a wedding knows that a photographer's very important, an integral part of the celebration.
So he felt that that would be a violation of his belief because he would be an integral part of that celebration.
REP. LAWLOR: Are there actually rules on that, or is it up to him to decide that I think that I'm playing a part and therefore it's against my religious belief or is there within, and you referred to the Roman Catholic Church, and just since you raised it, is there a rule about how far do you have to go to be participating in the event versus just in the room at the same time. I mean, how does this work?
DAVID REYNOLDS: I don't have canon law in front of me.
REP.LAWLOR: No, I got you. But if we're going to write a statute, we've got to figure this out.
DAVID REYNOLDS: The way it works within the church is that, in terms of level of cooperation, and I'm not a canon lawyer, so I won't 100 percent, okay, I can't quote you on a line (inaudible).
But it depends such as you know, level of cooperation. One of the big issues we always deal with the Catholic Church publicly is the prolife, abortion, you know there's a level of cooperation. What's the level of cooperation? Did you actually perform the abortion? And the same thing applies, I believe, within the teaching of the church for same sex marriages.
There is a provision that to cooperate and have a level of cooperation in same sex marriages something Catholics should avoid.
REP. LAWLOR: I got you, and I can understand, let's say the person performing the ceremony. There might be an argument there. Right? I can see that's pretty directly involved.
And then there's another question if they're a state official and we'll get to that in a second.( But I'm just saying, assuming you're not performing the ceremony, I mean, like the wait staff at the reception? I mean, is that something where they can't do that either if the event that's being celebrated is a commitment ceremony.
DAVID REYNOLDS: I'm not sure the wait staff. I'd have to look at well, I guess Canon law again to answer your question.
REP. LAWLOR: In my head, I don't get the (inaudible).
DAVID REYNOLDS: I think they're trying to, well, that photographer--
REP. LAWLOR: The photographer--
DAVID REYNOLDS: I would say the photographer is, the business owner is, you know, the person being asked to cooperate, or the wait staff. The wait staff isn't usually the business, I mean they're hired hands to come in and help.
REP. LAWLOR: But I mean, you're hiring the photographer.
DAVID REYNOLDS: And that would be a discussion between that wait staff person and their manager.
REP. LAWLOR: I got you, but you're still hiring the waiter and the wait staff. You know, I mean you're hiring the photographer. I don't, if ultimately we've got to come up with some language that draws some lines, I'm just wondering how we even try and draw these kinds of lines. I don't get that part.
DAVID REYNOLDS: I admit, and I have to admit this is a very difficult decision, and a lot of discussion probably has to be held around this, but I believe, and the church believes is an issue that needs to be addressed and maybe if we could address it in a way that at least address 80 percent of the problem, you know, 100 percent or come to some agreement on some language, I think, you know.
REP. LAWLOR: Senator McDonald asked you a question about making the comparisons to someone who had a religious objection to inter-racial marriage for example, and I just want to point out that in preparation for today, I read briefs of the State of Virginia and the amicus brief filed by the State of North Carolina, and they are replete with references to religious doctrines justifying separation of the racist.
In fact the judge, who was the sentencing judge in a criminal case, was emphatic about religious doctrine playing a fundamental role in the adoption of that crime in Virginia, which makes it a crime for a white person to marry a what they referred to as a Negro, or no, a colored person I think they referred to it.
So I mean, this was clearly part of the religious faith community in those states at the time it was fundamental to the adoption of the ban on inter-racial marriage.
So I think there's no question that was all about religion at the time that was adopted. That's clearly what the briefs say. In fact, you might be interested to know it, I was pleasantly surprised to see that one of the amicus briefs on the other side, on the side saying that it wasn't unconstitutional to have inter-racial marriage was actually filed, and it's a very compelling brief, and I think it would be very interesting to read it. It's filed by the National Catholic Conference for Inter-Racial Justice and the National Catholic Social Conference, Social Action Conference, and it looks like about 15 bishops from around the country.
And it's a very compelling argument about why it's important to respect in terms of marriage, the uniqueness of each person's interpretation of marriage and that different faiths have a different interpretation of it and that the government shouldn't be banning marriage and it's a very, very compelling brief, and I recommend to you.
But do you see how you could have a strong religious justification for objecting to inter-racial marriage? Not that you agree with it, but some people apparently some of the people may.
DAVID REYNOLDS: I have not seen that brief so I can't comment on that.
REP. LAWLOR: And my concern would be, if we allow people to simply discriminate, even though in this case against gay couples, how could we not allow people based on their religious beliefs, to discriminate against people for what religion they're a member of.
I don't want to start naming religions that are not commonplace around here, and I think it would be the subject of strong prejudice in the State of Connecticut but they're completely totally protected under our anti-discrimination laws, as well they should be.
And I can imagine someone saying, I don't believe, my religion tell me I can't perform marriages between you two for whatever reason. I think that should be, I know that is illegal in our state.
DAVID REYNOLDS: It is illegal?
REP. LAWLOR: Yes. It is illegal to discriminate like that. Now, on the question of the justices of the peace, you know. For starters let me say this is very interesting and I totally respect the concerns you're raising here, and I think it's interesting to talk about them.
But what came to my mind in that discussion was, if, there are some religious faiths that have very strong objections to the war in Iraq, for example, and if you're a member of the military and you're ordered to serve in Iraq and you're ordered to play a combat role over there, do you think there should be a religious protection to say that if you don't want to go to Iraq, if you are a member of the active duty that you don't have to, and there can be no consequences for that?
DAVID REYNOLDS: I believe the federal government, at least they used to, has conscientious objector status, but you have to go through certain steps to prove and validify your statements and your beliefs and that type of thing.
REP. LAWLOR: When they're in a draft. I'm talking about when you volunteer to serve in the military, that's your choice, just like it is a choice to be a justice of the peace. Then you understand that if you're ordered to war, you have to go and as a conscientious objector you're going to end up in prison if you fail to report for duty?
You cannot join the military. That's your option. When we had a draft there was a conscientious objector provision. But I'm talking about people who voluntarily sign up and enlist if they're ordered to participate, and there's a number of proceedings right now of people in that category, so--
DAVID REYNOLDS: In that category, the Catholic Church, in fact Pope John Paul came out and spoke against the war in Iraq, said it was not a justified war for it to, a justified war theory of the Catholic Church.
But that didn't obligate, that does not mean that Catholics could not go to war in Iraq because it wasn't a teaching of faith.
Something like marriage, same sex marriage, rolls down to a matter of a teaching of faith, a principle of a faith. So that would be a difference between a war in Iraq and--
REP. LAWLOR: And I agree with you, but I raise it because at the outset in terms of the photographer, you were saying it's really sort of an individual call, I mean, if you're a member of a faith, and it's your individual call that I can't be a photographer at a commitment ceremony because of my principles of faith. Right? It's logical.
It's not, you don't have to point to some rule that's published for the faith of your members, I mean, you just simply have to say that because of my faith I can't participate in this, and therefore there can be no consequences to me for my refusal.
Now we're talking about a justice of the peace who could theoretically say I don't feel like I can participate in this because of my faith, and I get the impression you're advocating there should be no consequences at all for that. Right? Is that what you're saying?
DAVID REYNOLDS: That's correct.
REP. LAWLOR: But if you're in the military in the same exact position, you volunteered to be a member of the United States Marine Corps. You're ordered to participate in a combat role in a conflict that you have a religious objection to, would you say that there should be no consequences to that individual either?
DAVID REYNOLDS: Well, I think the process would have to verify whether that's a legitimate teaching of the faith. I mean, what happens, too, when we talk about religious law, there is the Religious Restoration of Freedom Act within our statutes. It talks about religious burden on people and I think as you look at that, the religious laws and freedom laws are usually left broad, and then when there's a challenge to them or a court case or something, the judge usually verifies whether it's a legitimate religious argument that the person has, whether it's a qualified tenet of the state that this person believes. So it's usually left to the judge.
But what happens when the state enacts laws that say, you know, it sends a message. So if this Committee was to strengthen the religious liberty clauses within Senate Bill Number 899, it would be sending a message that one wants to respect religious liberty, and that it takes religious objection to same sex marriage by possible individual seriously.
But it also, written in the same vein, would leave open that role to the judicial appeal process, where somebody, not necessarily, somebody could say, maybe on a state level or whatever situation that yes, that person discriminated. No, I don't believe it's really a valid religious belief he's holding, or something like that. He's really doing it because he, you know, he's a really homophobic type person or something like that.
So I think, on that pace, because there's the legal system, there's always a judge that will help decide that.
So to try and enumerate and lie every little section of the provision would be difficult. But I think to send a message that this Committee, this Legislature, is still meaning to respect religious diversity within our state on this issue is a significant message to send.
REP. LAWLOR: I think you'd acknowledge drawing these lines is not easy.
DAVID REYNOLDS: No. No. Not easy being a judge.
REP. LAWLOR:O And we could be of help. But I'm pretty sure if you're an active duty soldier and you refuse to report, regardless of what reason you give, you could end up in jail. I'm pretty sure that's the case.
DAVID REYNOLDS: Yeah, I'm not familiar with military.
REP. LAWLOR: And on the judge topic that Senator McDonald raised, I just was talking about, of course, if you're a judge you have the authority to perform a marriage if you choose to.
DAVID REYNOLDS: Right.
REP. LAWLOR: But let me ask you on the other side of the equation. Judges hear divorce cases. Do you think a judge who had religious objections to same sex marriage could refuse to rule in a case involving a dissolution of such a marriage?
DAVID REYNOLDS: I'm not an expert in the court system, but wouldn't the judge have to be assigned to a divorce court hearing? So I mean, that would be part of his job, which he would be required to do.
I'm not a lawyer. I'm not an attorney, and definitely not the operation of the court, so, but he would be required to do that as part of his position, where officiating over a marriage, you know.
You know, if he had a couple come to him that he maybe he personally knew and he thought no way these people should get married, he could say, no, I'm not going to marry you because I don't think you're ready to get married. Go out some place else.
So I mean, it's not a requirement of his job. It's a privilege given to him because of his position.
REP. LAWLOR: All right. Thank you.
SEN. MCDONALD: Senator Kissel.
SEN. KISSEL: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I have this concern that at the end of the day my wife is going to say, why did you even ask any questions?
First of all, Deacon, I'm friends with your family, am I not?
DAVID REYNOLDS: Yes, you are.
SEN. KISSEL: And on this issue I have disagreed strenuously with the Co-Chairs of this Committee up until this point, have I not?
DAVID REYNOLDS: Yes.
SEN. KISSEL: And I would not say that I am the best Catholic in the world, I'm probably one of the worst, but I am a Catholic, the last I looked. I try to go to St. Adalbert's in Enfield and listen to Father Ed because I think he's one of the best priests I've ever bumped into and he gives the most wonderful homily.
And my son goes to parochial school. I'm proud of him when he gets the Christian Witness Award. But I have got to tell you, that part of your testimony on behalf of the Catholic Church, I have great problems with.
And I thought about it, should I pursue this or not, but the portion regarding Section 7 and the photographer. And I watch O'Reilly and those shows on Fox and I understand that that was a big case out there in the west, and I'm extraordinarily sympathetic to those folks in the room today, and outside in the great State of Connecticut that were not happy with the ultimate conclusions of the Kerrigan case.
Personally, I'm not so sure that the State Supreme Court had to step in. My guess is that this Legislature probably would have resolved it in that direction in a few years in any event, and while the public still would have been unhappy with that decision, it would have been a decision rendered through this legislative process, as opposed to through the courts.
And I think having these decisions ultimately determined by the Justices of the Supreme Court, sometimes leaves people with a bad taste in their mouth.
Nonetheless, let me ask you this line of questioning. At the time, and I grew up, and I'm proud to tell anybody that's willing to listen, I grew up in Windsor. Windsor prides itself as being the first English settlement in the State of Connecticut, and so prior to those folks in the early 17th century settling in Windsor, there were Native Americans and that was it.
So let's start at the beginning of the state as far as my part of the world. And that was the Congregationalist, and the Congregationalists came over from Britain, settled this state, and basically the state was run under their religious tenets.
Granted, they had a charter from the King, but it was a religious colony fundamentally, and those folks, those first settlers now, we can see them in United Church of Christ, but there's Congregationalists in Connecticut today.
You know, you drive down Route 5, Enfield Street in Enfield and there's that beautiful church, and go into almost any of our towns, 169 municipalities in Connecticut, and you will see a Congregational Church, and there's many folks, probably in this building, maybe even in this room that maybe have had ancestors here all the way to those early founding folks that can trace back their lineage, so there's probably folks that can go way back and say yes, you know, my great, great, great, great, grandfather or grandmother was here when Connecticut was first settled.
During the Reformation, there were huge and bloody wars in Europe between Protestants and Catholics. Huge, huge amounts of blood was spilled. We tend not to think too much about that any more because, and we almost scratch our head historically, and say, how could people want to kill one another over some of these things?
And if you bump into somebody in the hallway, and they say they're a Lutheran, they're a Methodist, you know, they're Seventh Day Adventists, nobody really thinks too much about that.
But if people really wanted to drill down deep and follow their fundamental tenets of their faith very stridently, they could indeed still find those differences as much as they held them firmly 300 years ago when there were mass executions, if you happened to capture people that were either Catholic or Protestant.
Under what you're suggesting in Section 7, and I understand almost that emotional appeal of a photographer's case, but, within the faith that I'm raising my children, my wife and I have determined to raise our children.
When one, when you're young you have your confirmation. You're confirmed into the Catholic faith. You're not even an adult at that time. And under this scenario, we could go to the local photographer who's a Congregationalist, who, if they go, if that individual felt as strong now as they did 300 years ago, those Protestants just felt that because the Catholics turned to Rome and turned to the tenets that the Pope is infallible, and all of those things and said, Senator Kissel, I appreciate that your son, Nathaniel is being confirmed, but I'm a Congregationalist and I refuse, I refuse to take pictures of the ceremony.
Then I go, and I go to, I don't know, the corner bakery. We want to get a cake for the ceremony, for the ceremony and I tell them it's for my son's confirmation. Senator, I'm a Protestant. I absolutely refuse to countenance what you Roman Catholic, you Roman Catholic that looks up to Rome and the Pope. I'm not going to sell you a cake because that would be condoning the ceremony.
And then, where does it end? And that's the part that breaks my heart about this testimony, because the Catholic faith that I love is a live and let live kind of thing, and I understand that there's certain tenets and scriptures that one has to observe under the canon law.
And I understand the Catholic faith is just not happy with the Kerrigan decision. And I still am grappling with the notion of how broad we should maybe expand the exception for those that actually have to do the ceremony, although even there I'm struggling with your position that if we as a state grant someone the authority to conduct a civil marriage ceremony, not really just civil, that for whatever reason they can opt out or opt in.
My guess is that the law of the land right now is that people opt out or opt in depending upon scheduling and things like that.
But for us to put our legal infamature on it to say that an individual then can decide which laws they're going to cooperate with and which laws they aren't, I have a real concern with that.
And so, do you see my concern with your, on behalf of the Catholic Conference's testimony that we should somehow statutorily protect individuals who, based upon their own religious beliefs can pick and choose how they are going to cooperate with an individual, and I think this word is, these words are important.
It says the new public policy. That's almost, it's almost language that makes it like it was the whim of the Legislature as opposed to a very narrowly determined decision of the highest court in our land predicated on a determination based upon the language of our State Constitution. That's the end of the road.
I mean, a good fight, fought to the end, firmly held belief, but in Connecticut the Supreme Court is the highest arbiter of these decisions. They stepped into the forum, they made a determination and now we have to sort of work with that.
And to expand, to sort of diminish that, and then to carve out this exception, which in my, which in my example could be turned right against Catholics as my understanding of the history of the State of Connecticut, you don't have to go back that far, 100 years.
Irish need not apply. The epithets that were used regarding Catholics, not real good, and that was because there were other individuals, settlers here, prior thereto. And I wouldn't even want to get into the Native Americans and how they might be viewing all of this European colonization, and now this great world colonization of New England.
Okay? So I know, and I don't want to gobble up all the time, but what is your response to my concerns that if we allow this kind of expansion regarding your concerns, that it could absolutely be used everywhere we look to deny services and goods to any number of people based upon somebody stating that they have firmly held religious beliefs, and that it could just as well and just as easily, be turned against each and every Catholic in the State of Connecticut to deny them constitutionally what I would believe protective goods and services from their fellow citizens.
DAVID REYNOLDS: Well, I first of all say I think the language that we're proposing here would only have to deal with same sex marriage, so it wouldn't have to deal with other goods and services within the society. I mean that would have to be taken, you know, covered by other laws such as--
SEN. KISSEL: But Deacon, but Deacon, I don't understand. I understand because it's sort of the issue that's popped up right now. But what I, but you're predicating it on a foundation that is based upon religious belief.
DAVID REYNOLDS: Correct.
SEN. KISSEL: And the Protestants don't like the Catholic belief that we look to Rome, and the confirmation ceremony is just as much of a religious ceremony that acknowledges that, and Protestants would have every bit of a fundamental religious principle base to say, I don't believe in that.
I mean, what I'm saying is, it seems crazy now, but 300 years ago people were being hung and burned to death over those exact questions. And I don't, we're way beyond that.
And so, I understand the feelings of the church that they don't like this decision, but I see huge problems in expanding people's ability to carve out exceptions when we've learned from hundreds of years of that kind of history.
And so, to just say, well, I only have to deal with this, and this is a bigger point that we have to draft laws that apply to everybody under all circumstances, and that's where it all falls apart for me. And I'm just not happy that the Church came before us, the Church that I respect fundamentally in my heart of hearts and says, broaden this to include, not just photographers, but anybody that might be somehow related to the ceremony.
Because if you follow that to its natural conclusion, that applies to confirmation proceedings, maybe baptism, maybe first communions for Catholics for what is it, religious ceremonies for Jewish people, the Muslim faith, you know, a kid's Bar Mitzvah.
Oh, I'm not going to take a picture of a kid's Bar Mitzvah because that's when they become a man in the Jewish faith and my teachings prohibit acknowledging that religion. That's the problem that I have.
DAVID REYNOLDS: And I think you raise some valid points, valid concerns. I share that. I think that as you deal with this issue, it goes through all our minds. What are the limits? What are the borders that we have to draw around this?
But I think, first of all, our church is concerned because we already have people. You mentioned a cake maker or somebody else. Well, we already have a photographer and an innkeeper, et cetera, who are basically told by the state, because you want to live by your religious beliefs, if you don't follow what we tell you, we're shutting you down.
So there's a direct infringement in these cases on the livelihoods of people, that cake maker, you know, the florist that you mentioned, and these situations we're citing, there's others where the state has actually come out because of the changing viewpoint of our society in terms of the same sex relationships, have come out and said, if you don't like it, you're in the wrong business. Get out.
So people are being, from our viewpoint, I guess I'm looking at it differently, people are already confronting this where the state is coming along and saying, if you really want to believe your religion? You're either in the wrong state, or you're in the wrong job.
Because we have to remember, there are different things. Like you mentioned the Protestants not liking the Catholics, that whole history, you know, the Congregationalists. A lot of that, and if you look at, theologically, you look at the religious teachings and beliefs in the church, the Catholic Church, those weren't what the Catholic Church would call a sinful act, a grievous act.
Marriage, something like a same sex marriage the Catholic Church would call that and term that an act. So forcing somebody to do something like that would possibly be actually forcing them to really violate true tenets of their faith, whether the relationship, they would do their relationship with God and be harmed.
SEN. KISSEL: I appreciate your statement. There are a ton of people that want to testify. I promised Senator McDonald I wouldn't belabor the point.
I have been with you guys all along. We're at a fork in the road. I have to let go of your hand. I can't go any further down that road if this is the testimony. I just can't. I can't.
You're looking at it strictly from a Catholic point of view, but I'm saying the exact same arguments could be offered from the Protestant point of view and it all falls apart when you take the other side.
And so I appreciate the testimony regarding those that actually perform the marriage. I will examine it and work as far with you on that question, to try to make sure it's as fair as possible.
But regarding an expansion to others that provide goods and services, I just can't go there, and I appreciate the Church's position. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you, Senator Kissel. I just want to ask you a quick question. Senator Kissel's questions made me think about it.
Isn't it true that it used to be that a Catholic, a long time ago, but that a Catholic couldn't marry anybody other than another Catholic?
DAVID REYNOLDS: It was recommended. I don't believe, that was long before my time.
SEN. MCDONALD: Okay.
DAVID REYNOLDS: My time. And I think, you know, the Jewish people in the Jewish faith prefer their people to marry, you know, they used to be very strict about not marrying out of faith.
My mother-in-law is a Lutheran and my father-in-law is a Catholic. I mean, they went through hellish times when they were married. That was back in the 50s. So it wasn't a teaching of the Church. It was more of a social preference.
SEN. MCDONALD: No, I understand that. But I was, and you mentioned your parents. My parents, my mother was Catholic, my father was Protestant. They were precluded from being married on the altar. They had to be married at the rail.
So my question to you is, if you flipped around your argument, wouldn't it be true that if a member of the clergy is going to perform an interdenominational marriage, that we could basically be saying that they'd have to do it on the same basis for anybody, regardless of their religious beliefs.
DAVID REYNOLDS: I'm not sure.
SEN. MCDONALD: I guess I'm trying to figure out where Senator Kissel is pointing, where the logical conclusion of this is. Clergy are performing a statutory function when they solemnize a civil marriage.
They're at the same time, they're performing a religious function, and frankly, I've never figured out why the Catholic Church allows the sacrament of marriage to be sullied, if you will, to when they perform a civil marriage at the same time.
The priest could tell you to go to city hall and get married at city hall and then come to the church and have a religious marriage performed.
But I guess I'm trying to figure out where is the logical conclusion to Senator Kissel's point of your position where people start to make the determination under any circumstances about what they want to abide by or not under our laws.
DAVID REYNOLDS: I think it just, it comes back again to what is a bona fide religious belief of the person, what's the true belief or is it an act of just, I don't like this person. I hate this person. I disagree with that person, and the law as we're proposing would be written. Of course, they're always open to interpretation. It would be up to a judge to determine that person's objections.
SEN. MCDONALD: Okay--
DAVID REYNOLDS: I mean, also the concern is I think we have yes, we have that person's right to get a service, we have that person's right. But where does, (inaudible) does the person's other member of the party, what is their religious rights come to in terms of the power and authority of the state.
SEN. MCDONALD: And under your conception of this, who is the arbiter of that? Whether it's a bona fide religious belief? The Catholic Church or--
DAVID REYNOLDS: Well, I think right now, I think right now in terms of faith, there's many court cases in this country, it's usually a judge. I mean, it's usually a court, a court of law, to distinguish to, I'm sorry.
SEN. MCDONALD: No, no. I didn't mean to cut you off.
DAVID REYNOLDS: To distinguish whether this is truly a religious belief or whether it's some other motivation behind an individual, you know, refusal to participate.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you. Senator Gomes was next.
SEN. GOMES: Good afternoon. I've been listening to all these interpretations of what it takes to be a Catholic. I guess some of us, we get it from our parents and we keep (inaudible) traditionally where you're Catholics.
I got baptized in the Catholic Church, made your first communion, confirmation. I've been a Catholic ever since. Some of the things we did when we were younger as Catholics, ate fish on Fridays and all that is pretty loosely interpreted now, and people have different beliefs of what it takes to be a Catholic, and what it takes to be a Protestant, and so on and so forth. I'd rather believe that what it takes to be a good person is more important.
And I wanted to go back to that thing about the photographer. You talked about the religious beliefs that inhibited these people to do what they did and not take pictures of somebody, and you would say that this belief is something that should be followed?
DAVID REYNOLDS: About, from the photographer?
SEN. GOMES: Yes.
DAVID REYNOLDS: If it was his sincere belief that participation in that activity has somewhere impaired his relationship to his God, then yes, it probably, you know, should not be followed. That's how the Church would view it.
SEN. GOMES: We talk about religious beliefs and religious objections and everything. Do you think that ought to take precedent over my religious beliefs or my religious objections as I sit here as a Senator, should take precedent over the fact that some of these civil rights or some of these civil liberties?
DAVID REYNOLDS: Well, we, you know, religious freedom is probably one of the top religious liberties we have in this country. It's the reason many people came to this country to escape some of the religious oppression in Europe at the time, so, to find a new faith.
SEN. GOMES: And some of the religious beliefs, some of the people suffered under religious beliefs.
DAVID REYNOLDS: Oh (inaudible)
SEN. GOMES: And were deprived of civil rights under religious beliefs. Now I'm asking you, do you think that your religious beliefs, or anybody's religious beliefs should violate the rights or confront the rights of some of these civil rights or some of these civil liberties?
DAVID REYNOLDS: Well, I think we have to look at it not only are you dealing with two sets of rights, religious rights versus some other civil liberties or rights. So first of all, you've got a conflict right there, which one at that point in time is more important?
But I think as we look at this issue, I think, we're not advocating somebody's religion or faith or right is more important than the others. We're advocating respect. That there be respect within the law for those differences, those variations between religious beliefs.
I personally, you know, I stood on a committee concerning healthcare reform in our state, and I sit with Muslims, representing the Muslim community, Jewish community, we all work together. We all find common ground to work on this as we share many common beliefs.
But we also all respect each other's beliefs. I don't think anybody of those ministers that I would work with, would ever think of forcing their beliefs on me, and I wouldn't force my beliefs on them, so it's a matter of respect.
That's our purpose here, to make sure that liberty, that religious liberty, which is valued, is valued in our own state constitution, our U.S. Constitution, that that be shown some respect, that be considered when enacting such laws that come in direct contact, that bring the religious world in direct conflict with the civil world.
I think we're kind of putting on blinders when we say, well, you know, let's not deal with that issue. The clearest example of where you have civil law conflicting with religious law, and it's haunted us for 20, 30 years now plus, is the abortion issue.
I mean, that is civil law versus religious beliefs in law. What we're trying to do is, let's avoid that kind of stuff. Let's be proactive and try to show that sensitivity within statutes, of a respect for those differences in beliefs.
I'm not saying my beliefs are better than your beliefs.
SEN. GOMES: And therefore, it becomes, we get into the realm of interpretations, and even the Catholic Church and other religious beliefs have been relaxed on some manners, in some areas, to accept what you would call somebody's choices, civil choices, such as pro-abortion and anti-abortion and so on and so forth.
And sometimes when people get into the act of interpreting what they call religious beliefs, they get into their own thing and misinterpret a lot of things.
Last year I got into a conversation with somebody from a Catholic organization, and it got to the point where I said, well, you make it sound like, if I don't agree with you or what you're espousing, that I'm going to go to hell. With a snide look, and a remark, he gave me a remark with a smile on his face and said, well, you said it. Therefore, I had to remember that I was a Senator. Therefore, I didn't extend an invitation for him to make the trip first.
Now, if we'd have been on the street, it would have been different. I'm trying to show you, while we sit here, we make laws and we try to make laws that judges, that the judges that you're talking about, they uphold them and they interpret them.
And when we get to the extent where we make laws that violate other people's civil rights or civil liberties, then we're not doing our job. When that judge doesn't interpret the laws that we made right, he's not doing his job.
DAVID REYNOLDS: Senator, I--
SEN. GOMES: And some of you, when some of you get into your thing and try to interpret things to your beliefs and not respect other people's beliefs or other people's rights, then we have problems there.
DAVID REYNOLDS: I don't think this legislation is trying to impose anybody's religious beliefs on others. Again, I think it's a matter of trying to build respect of those differences into the legislation, and that's at least the way I view it, the Catholic Conference is viewing it, and we're trying to build respect for those conflicting civil rights, because they're both civil rights that you talk about the right.
Right now it's a civil right in the State of Connecticut to have a same sex marriage, a result of civil right not to have the state impose on your religious belief, and that, as I said, is in our Constitution, it's in our Religions versus Freedom of Restoration Act, within out statutes, so it's a conflict between two civil rights.
For this Committee not to address it, it's going to eventually, I believe come up later on and we're going to say, you know, we can't believe that actually happened. Just like in Vermont with the civil union case with the inn was Catholic and his family with the bed and breakfast, you know, was brought up and had, you know, thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars on legal expense fees because there's no guidance from the state on precedent or what feelings.
So I think that's what we're asking for. We're not looking to impose on somebody's civil rights. We're looking to kind of realize we live in a diversified society and we need to try to meld that together and respect that legislation.
SEN. GOMES: Well, all I hope is, that whoever believes whatever they believe, that we all get to the place where we get to respect everybody's rights. Thank you.
SEN. MCDONALD: Representative Holder-Winfield.
REP. HOLDER-WINFIELD: Good afternoon. I was listening to Representative, Senator Gomes, and he asked you a question about how you thought what you believed would impact someone sitting here, and I'm not sure that I actually heard an answer to that question.
So, if you could go back at that, and maybe answer again, or maybe answer for the first time the question that Senator Gomes asked you about, whether someone sitting here, sitting on this side, would have to, whether, if I had a religious objection, if that would be in play here.
So if I'm listening to testimony, should I be listening to that testimony as a Christian with already presubscribed notions, or should I be listening to it as a Senator, as a Representative, actually trying to get to understand what the person.
I just want to know what you believe about the question that was asked, because I didn't hear the answer.
DAVID REYNOLDS: I don't remember if he asked that. I'm sorry if I didn't answer that, Senator. I think the question you ask is really what's maybe a little beyond me, at least what my testimony here is, what's the role of a Representative. How does a Representative, an elected official meld his personal beliefs.
REP. HOLDER-WINFIELD: I'm asking. I'm not just, I'm asking that question specific of that, but I think it does relate to what we're talking about here, because you're saying that people wouldn't have to do certain things because of their religious beliefs.
And I'm not talking about inside the Church, which is an institution to which I can go or choose not to go, but I'm talking about in the public sphere.
DAVID REYNOLDS: I think in a public sphere, a public official, I think any person, not even just a public official, but any person is diverse with who they are. I mean, their education, their religious beliefs, their race, you know, there's so many things that form what a person is, and that has to be considered, as you said, this side, in other words the Committee members can be elected Representatives.
Yes, it's their responsibility to bring all that to the table, that you're there representing not yourself, but basically the people that elected you and the people that elected you know that this is the person you are.
So I think yes, as an elected official, I think you have to bring everything that you are to the table and try to make the difficult decisions that you have to make.
REP. HOLDER-WINFIELD: But the decisions wouldn't be decisions that are made before I get here and listen.
DAVID REYNOLDS: Correct.
REP. HOLDER-WINFIELD: That would probably depend on the issue.
DAVID REYNOLDS: But obviously, I think in the political sphere, to be a good, you know, politician, you have to have open minds and try to meet, you know, we see peace in our democracy because the different sides come together and respect each other's differences, and I think that's the important role of a politician.
REP. HOLDER-WINFIELD: So the same would hold true of a judge.
DAVID REYNOLDS: Of a judge?
REP. HOLDER-WINFIELD: Yes.
DAVID REYNOLDS: You know, I've not dealt with judges. I'm not an attorney. But I'm sure a judge brings a lot to who he is as a judge, or she is as a judge when they come and sit on the bench. You know, so, and I'm sure that probably does affect their decision.
REP. HOLDER-WINFIELD: I won't continue with what I was going to ask you. Thank you.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you. Representative Dillon, then Representative Morris and Senator McLachlan.
REP. DILLON: Thank you very much. Hi. Good afternoon. You've excited a lot of interest in the Committee.
I guess I have a couple of concerns looking just dealing with your testimony in a vacuum and not having any language before us, and that is, some of the people who it seems to me would be covered by that amendment have a competing duty, and not just judges.
And so that's one issue, and to a certain extent that might mean that the courts would end up reconciling it.
I guess the second would be, well, one, that is, this whole issue of you know is rights based and the beginning conscious opt out and I was here when they re-did it. It was Richard Tulisano.
But it seems to me looking at some of the things on the federal level what's being marketed as conscience is turning into coercion, and that troubles me a lot.
You know, I remember seeing some of the language in the Bush directives that basically you could deny Medicaid dollars to an institution that unless it permitted a particular employee to refuse to do something that they followed, and I think it's problematic in a number of ways.
Number one, the coercive aspect of it.
Number two, I think it's could have the effect of marginalizing Catholics in civil rights. And actually, the bishops may actually like that. In fact, they've been doing it for years, but I'm not sure it's good for the politics.
For example, if you were going to trial, could I insist that a judge recuse himself because he's Catholic? Could I request that someone be bounced off a jury because they're Catholic?
Could I object, you know, I mean, there are consequences to all these little wedge things that we do that are problematic, I think, in terms of the effect that it has on every area of civic life, and for that reason, I think we should be very conservative about thinking through what we can do with all those things.
And I'm not wild about the path that the Church is on with all this gay stuff anyway. I don't understand their obsession, to be honest. I mean, so much of what I've done in my life I owe, really, to the conscience that I developed from my own safe tradition in the Church, and to discover that this authority is over and over being tested on gay issues is sort of, number one, I don't know where the caritas is, and I was raised in the tradition of service.
But number two, I mean, you know, I want when my kids friends come over, you know, I mean, we look irrelevant to them. I'm like, well, don't you want to go to church. They're like, are you kidding? What's up with that, you know? Because it looks like a bunch of old guys sitting around obsessing about gay people.
It just doesn't, it just doesn't, you know, it doesn't seem relevant. I mean, it certainly mattered when one of our friends came out and then everybody looked at it differently. This is years ago. All of a sudden this abstract thing really mattered.
I really think we should think about competing duties, and that may include public accommodation. That may include the duties that you bring on when you take any kind of an oath. That could also include, I think, a potential abrogation or a marginalization of Catholics in civic life, which as one myself, I think would be a real problem.
God gave me reason. God gave me a conscience, too, and there are times that, I mean, I had a lot of trouble with this reconciliation business with the Holocaust denial a couple of months ago, at the same time that the Church was saying that a gay person was so disordered that they couldn't enter the priesthood.
I mean, that was mind boggling to me, and I mean, it's so stale to get angry at the Church. It was like, oh please, where were you 50 years ago, you know? But, it's a scandal to me. I mean, we should let it go. Thank you very much.
SEN. MCDONALD: There wasn't any questions there, but you're more than welcome to respond if you'd like.
DAVID REYNOLDS: I would just make one comment, and Pat, some day when you and I can sit down we'll talk about all of that stuff.
But the term of wedge issue, you used that phrase and I'm not here today to build a wedge issue between anybody. I'm here to actually build tolerance and avoid wedge issues.
If you looked at the few cases I've cited, it wasn't the Church that caused the problem. It was other parties that caused the problem. They created a wedge issue instead of allowing mutual respect to occur.
So we're not trying to create any wedges here. We're just trying to come into an environment and create a society with laws that really does, will respect the differences between certain people.
REP. DILLON: Thank you very much, and I thank you Mr. Chairman for my rant. I'm done. Thank you.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you. You know, one of the benefits of this process is very different than most states. Everybody has a right to ask questions and you have a right to respond. It takes a lengthy period of time, and so I appreciate your patience while we go through that process.
I would just remind everybody that we have about 44 other people who are signed up to testify, so if you have questions, please frame them as quickly as possible, and then we can hopefully get on to some of the other folks who have been very patient.
But I believe Representative Morris was next, and then Senator McLachlan.
REP. MORRIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Good afternoon, Mr. Deacon Reynolds.
DAVID REYNOLDS: Good afternoon, Representative.
REP. MORRIS: I think it's good we're having this conversation today in terms of religion and it's, you know, it's impact pro or con in regard to the legislation and the whole same sex marriage discussion.
There's an interesting article in today's Hartford Courant. I just want to read two pieces of it that prefaces the question that I have for you.
The writer was Robin Stepwell Wilson. On one piece it says Connecticut's existing statute banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation on public accommodations subjects violators to fines up to $100 and 30 days in jail, or both.
And one of the concluding statements is that whether we are a plural enough society to allow religious dissenters to live alongside same sex couples, without depriving those couples of their civil rights. This is the basic, you know, kind of discussion here and it's a challenge.
With those statements being said, and if I need to repeat them for you I will. The question is this. Are you proposing, the proposal that you've given us today, are you basically proposing that persons who have conscionable objections based on faith, not be penalized, for example, fired, due to that objection, like the service workers, if the refusal to provide said service does not prohibit or impede the delivery of service.
DAVID REYNOLDS: That is what we are talking about here today, Representative. We're trying to, again, protect people's rights so they're not harmed by their religious beliefs, that actions, legal actions I guess before the authority of the state doesn't come down upon them and harm their life.
And one of the things, many of the things, especially in same sex marriages, the issue we're looking at here, in terms of a justice of the peace or a judge, or you know, a photographer or an inn to stay at, there's not usually just one choice. There's a lot of other choices.
So just because the state is respecting religious difference doesn't mean they're denying the other couple the service. They're denying them the civil right. They think there's plenty of other positions, and I think that's where you come in our society, where you balance the two.
That person, because that person won't perform that marriage, cannot ever get married in the State of Connecticut? No. Do you know how many justices of the peace are there per town in the State of Connecticut? Quite a few.
REP. MORRIS: I guess you kind of led into where my second piece was for you to confirm it, because I was going to kind of make certain that we're clarifying by saying where your position you're at is in order to respect religious rights because we want to respect all rights, and I've, one of those I've been very clear on when it comes to gay rights, I'm a proponent.
Everyone knows, my biggest challenge is when it comes to same sex marriage. Other than that, I'm going to push and enforce for all of the other rights.
But at the same time, I'm a strong proponent for religious rights and trying to make sure we're balancing them all, and that's why I like what this writer put here. I think it's something for everyone to consider.
Are we a pluralistic enough society that we can respect the rights of those with religious convictions as well as those who are gay, and make certain we're legislating in such a way that the both can live together and no one is harmed, you know, you live well. So it's a matter of how we do that.
So in order to respect religious rights, provided there is opportunity to receive the services in an equal manner, but religious objection is not penalized, are you satisfied?
For example, under old civil rights, black people, the colored people had to go drink at the fountain. Everyone got water, all right? But there was a colored fountain and there was a white fountain, okay?
White people went in the front door of the restaurant and the blacks went in the back. Everyone got food, but it wasn't equal, okay?
DAVID REYNOLDS: Correct.
REP. MORRIS: Okay? Part of the argument that brought us here today to the same sex marriage is that civil unions were not equal to marriage, all right? And we have a Supreme Court that said it's not equal. All right?
So therefore, you know, you've got to make sure that marriage is afforded to everyone so that everyone now has this equal institution, all right?
So the question then comes down to, if we have an equal institution there, provided, as you said, whether it's a photographer or someone else providing a service, as long as someone can avail themselves of that same service, and the person can really demonstrate, not just, because I think there's some good arguments that have been brought up here.
I mean, some people arbitrarily, because they are homophobic, try to deny someone of a service, and that, we don't want to have. But where someone we may promote a process where people can viably prove beyond a shadow of a doubt with all the different things the Catholic Church does, that it is really serious because of their religious conviction that they're not offering that service, and there isn't a shortage area in that area, because that could be a problem as well, of providers, all right, then do you think, does this then kind of work into language that you're considering it would make sense?
DAVID REYNOLDS: I think that's something that is reflective of the language, and I think we have to, that we live in such a pluralistic society that if that photographer, whoever, wouldn't do that service that there is somebody available to do that service, so the right isn't being denied.
In the case, you know, we were talking about before, what happened there is, the person says I object based on my religious grounds, is then dragged to court or a suit, of before a commission and have to pay out legal fees, et cetera, is penalized for that belief, why the person bringing that charge, goes on and receives the service that they, you know, they just went to another justice of the peace. They went to another photographer or something like that, so they're really showing no harm there.
But the person that said, I don't want to do this because, you know, it's really against my religious. Really, this is a belief, and they can justify that belief, solemnly justify that belief but they get harmed from it. So that's what we're trying to prevent. That's not mutual respect.
If they go after somebody, harm somebody because of their faith, and then go off on the side and take care of all your business the way it would have been taken care of anyway.
REP. MORRIS: So if I understand you correctly, your concern would be that the person under our current legislation may incur the harm of the $100 fine or the 30 days in jail when there might have been an equal opportunity for someone else to provide that service?
DAVID REYNOLDS: That's definitely the issue, a topic related to this, yes, definitely.
REP. MORRIS: Okay. I think, Representative, I can't think of her name right now, from New Haven, brought up a good point in terms of conscience to coercion and the whole respect case.
SEN. MEYER: Dillon.
REP. MORRIS: Dillon, Representative Dillon. Thank you very much, Senator Meyer.
And that's another thing that brought us to where we are today in terms of the whole same sex marriage piece. When we heard it two years ago, the concern was that we wanted to make certain for people that are gay, that they felt they have the same level of respect, and marriage would give them that, and therefore would legislate, we would be somehow legislating respect.
And the judges have basically done that. Of course, I don't think you can legislate or coerce people into doing it.
How do you think, what do you think, long term or do you predict there could be any type of backlash whether it's upon faith communities or gay communities if we do not address, effectively, the issue of making certain that we are, in our effort to make certain that we're providing equal access to protections for people that are gay, if we're not also adequately providing the protections for people of faith, whether we in the Legislature understand those tenets or not?
DAVID REYNOLDS: Well, I think, you know, it's hard for me to speculate on the future. But I think right now in the State of Connecticut civil rights are very well protected for the gay community, for any community. I think we have a strong history, and the court has ruled on this issue. It's the law of the state, and we have to live with that.
And the purpose that we bring this proposal before this Committee is to try to avoid conflict. You know, we live again, and the word pluralistic society, we want to avoid conflict.
So we're trying to look at that and say, what can we do to avoid cases where people, because they believe certain things, that are practicing their faith are, and I would say maybe some of these cases I cited were victims of, you know, dislike. You know, that person believes in that religion. I can't stand these religious people so I'm going to sue them and hurt them and they can bleed.
So I mean we, that could be very wall part of these. I can't, you know, speak to what was in the plaintiff's mind in the cases, but I think we have to be careful of that. And as we move into this new era, we should, the Legislature should address that.
REP. MORRIS: So are you alluding to that piece, so to speak, you know, and to protect rights.
So, is that what you were alluding to earlier in your testimony when you said we may end up having to, if we don't address this as an issue, if we don't demand them coming back just two years from now, because people who have religious convictions now are being compelled to do something that conflicts with their religious convictions, and then are penalized for it, may end up with a number of different cases that we end up coming back here if we do not make sure that we are fairly and adequately balancing the rights of both groups of people?
DAVID REYNOLDS: That's exactly our concern, you know. We're trying to be, again, the word proactive. We're trying to avoid people from having to go into a hardship and then have the Legislature reconsider the issue after somebody's already gone through a hardship..
REP. MORRIS: Thank you very much, Deacon Reynolds.
SEN. MCDONALD: Well, the good news is there's only one more Committee member who wants to ask you any questions. The bad news is, during the course of your testimony, we picked up nine additional people who want to testify, so let's keep that in mind. But Senator McLachlan has been very patient.
SEN. MCLACHLAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you, Deacon Reynolds for your time today. Much appreciated. This is certainly a fascinating topic for me and many others in the State of Connecticut and across the country.
And I sense that what you're focused on is preservation of religious liberties. So that's a simple statement.
DAVID REYNOLDS: The ability of individuals to (inaudible). Yes.
SEN. MCLACHLAN: And so, we have preservation of religious liberties in the First Amendment, and so your concern, just for clarification is that in Senate Bill Number 899, there is a section that carves out the clause for clergy--
DAVID REYNOLDS: Correct.
SEN. MCLACHLAN: --to excuse themselves in this scenario of a ceremony.
So are we in agreement that your proposed changes are to make changes to those exclusions, or add to the carve outs, if you will, of Section 7, similar to what was in place under the civil union statute in Connecticut, where it did, in fact, I believe, allow for justices of the peace to decline to perform a civil ceremony?
DAVID REYNOLDS: That is one of the changes that we read about that justices of the peace were able to do that. But now they received a ruling, I believe, an opinion from the Attorney General saying that they can no longer do that. They have to basically either do those ceremonies, be willing to do them, or to step away from those ceremonies.
So that is a little stronger language than occurred during the period of the civil union, so they're now under a, you know, an opinion from the Attorney General.
If you don't want to do same sex marriages, don't be a justice of the peace. So your faith excludes you from holding that position.
SEN. MCLACHLAN: So generally speaking in the argument of religious liberties granted to us in First Amendment, your concern and that of the Catholic Conference, is that Senate Bill Number 899 is somehow trampling on the religious liberties of people in a way that it is excluding or not specifically carving out those religious liberties?
DAVID REYNOLDS: I think our concern with Senate Bill Number 988 is that it doesn't go far enough to recognize those religious liberties, and because of what we see happening in other parts of the country and Canada and other European countries of true religious people of the religious faith that objected. That this just does not go far enough.
And if we're going to finally codify the Kerrigan case, make same sex marriage the law of the State of Connecticut clearly within its statutes, that we should also recognize this, not have it be, you know, something in the room that nobody wants to talk about, recognize that this is an area of conflict and the Legislature should address that to protect both liberties.
Same sex couples now have their religious beliefs protected fully. The religious people are wondering what's that going to mean for me? Am I going to be able to practice my faith fully or do I have to worry about being like the Methodist down in New Jersey or the photographer in New Mexico or the Catholic up in Vermont where people are going to come after me because I'm trying to run a business, get on with my life, and they just don't like, you know, my religious beliefs.
SEN. MCLACHLAN: So do you believe that there is a distinct difference between religious liberties and some of the concerns of my colleagues where they are concerned that exclusions beyond that of the clergy are discrimination?
Do you, have you thought through what is the balance there?
DAVID REYNOLDS: We're not seeking to discriminate. We're just seeking to preserve rights.
SEN. MCLACHLAN: I don't imply that you're, what I'm saying is that you've got the religious liberty argument, and you have the concerns that are valid and certainly everyone in this country is concerned about preserving civil rights.
DAVID REYNOLDS: Correct.
SEN. MCLACHLAN: My colleague, Senator Gomes talked a lot about that.
I think that there is a balance of religious liberties and civil rights. Have you thought through that to help us preserve the civil liberties, the religious liberties in this case as it relates to a gay marriage?
DAVID REYNOLDS: Well, I think in the world right now we have civil rights of gay couples. We have people of different sexual orientations are very well protected, and if you look at the balance, we're worried that the balance is now going to shift, because as when I was talking to Senator Gomes, responded to his question before, I said you've really had a conflict between two civil liberties.
Religious freedom is a civil liberty, and of course, under state law of Connecticut, they have the same sex marriages now as a civil right, a civil liberty.
So I think you have two conflicts and the state has to be careful that there's a respect within our society in Connecticut for those. And since we are one of the first, I mean, Massachusetts, we're number two for same sex marriage right now, you know, it's a good opportunity for the State of Connecticut to say, hey look, we have the same sex marriage and to the rest of the country if the trend continues, here's how we dealt with this issue. Here's how we feel, you know, about religious liberties in the state, and make a strong statement about that, and help protect also the people of faith.
SEN. MCLACHLAN: So some legal scholars, of which I am not, being a lay person it's always interesting to have such an intense legal argument surrounded by such esteemed colleagues with a long legal profession, I look at it, the legal process, the law-making process, I believe I look at it out a different window than my fellow colleagues who are accomplished lawyers.
And so when I look at it out that different window of a lay person, if you will, both in the Legislature and in the Church, I wonder if it isn't such an ironic part of the American experience that we have this very dramatic declaration of the Connecticut Supreme Court affording gay couples the right to marry, which is the law of the land and soon to be codified, and yet there is concerns after that very dramatic and important decision, whether you agree with it or not, a very important decision, that the impact of that decision is now perhaps taking away someone else's religious liberties.
And so the legal scholars that I'm reading and speaking to are saying, Legislature, you have a great opportunity now to take pause and assure that religious liberties are preserved in this process.
And so, I ask you again, has the Catholic Conference in Connecticut, and your peers in other religions who sit at the table with you on community projects all the time, has there been discussions about those concerns that honor the civil rights of the gay couple's right to marry, and yet will clearly honor the religious liberty concerns that you've talking about today.
Has there been, in the faith communities, has there been discussion that you're aware of yet, and if not, why not?
DAVID REYNOLDS: I think within the Catholic Conference, first of all, yes, there's been discussion with them, my counterparts around the country, about the concern about how do you balance the two now that, you know, in a state especially like Connecticut where you have that conflict. So we've had that discussion.
With other faith communities, we differ. I mean, there's some Christian faith communities that support same sex marriage, some that do not support it. There's some that are split on it, you know, different arguments are occurring within their own faith, like the Episcopal Church.
I mean, there's a tremendous battle going on within the Episcopal Church about the issue of same sex marriage and relationships, et cetera.
So it's a very tough one, I think, and again, I can't speak, but knowing the people I know in the other faith communities, I think there's a profound respect for religious difference and a feeling that, you know, the state should respect that religious difference.
So I don't think, I don't find one religion out there trying to, you know, override another religion. I think again, with the people I know, and we haven't had a deep discussion about this, but there's a profound respect that, you know, religious liberty is very important.
Because you know, right now we're talking about the Catholic faith, but there's other faiths that we may have, so let's face, you know, what other issue might come along.
So I think as the Legislature approaches an issue like the same sex marriage, which has been, and still is in our country divided among usually, you know, a civil rights issue versus religious beliefs. I mean that's the major conflict in here.
That as we attempt to resolve that, we just can't say well, we're going to give all preference to civil rights issue and we're not really, we don't even recognize the whole religious conflict that occurred during this battle, and try to just shove it under the carpet.
I think when you do that, it's just going to come back to haunt you and it's going to be problems or just one side that has the advantage and now is going to, you know, take advantage of the other side.
So I think it's a discussion that, you know you're right. Maybe religious faiths should sit around the table and discuss this and come to a common ground on that.
SEN. MCLACHLAN: Well, let's face it, there are members of the Catholic Church, some who have spoken today who don't agree with the management of the Catholic Church, some who were born and raised in it, and no longer feel the same way about their faith as it relates to the Catholic Church, and so that's their experience.
However, I think that those, that's the American experience, though. That's sort of the general experience that we all go through life with different experiences, and at this point in time in our lives, we're looking at life out a different window, and I want to go back to my point just one more time, and then move on if I can, that I encourage you and the Catholic Church, and all of the faith communities in Connecticut and across the country for that matter, to look seriously at their, first through an eye of respect for one another, and respect of one another's faith.
But look very carefully at the balance of religious liberty and civil rights, and how can you offer suggestions to the legal minds of this Judiciary Committee, that will codify the Kerrigan decision in such a way to honor the decision of the Supreme Court of Connecticut, but most importantly, respect all parties involved.
And what I'm hearing is that there are grave concerns that the bill as proposed now is not respectful of all parties involved. So I urge you to do that as quickly as possible, and I will encourage in any way I can from my end of the state in Danbury, to encourage people to do the same, and offer suggestions that are clearly spoken, respectful, and do clearly offer ways for us to move on and honor religious liberty. Thank you.
SEN. MCDONALD: Hopefully, there are no further questions for Mr. Reynolds. I certainly appreciate your patience. You've been more than generous with your time today. I appreciate it very much.
DAVID REYNOLDS: Thank you.
SEN. MCDONALD: Next is Anne Stanback, followed by Ben Klein. Good afternoon.
ANNE STANBACK: Good afternoon, Senator McDonald, Representative Lawlor and members of the Committee. My name is Anne Stanback and I'm the Executive Director of Love Makes A Family, the Connecticut organization whose mission has been to change our state laws so that loving, committed same sex couples can legally marry.
After eight years, that day finally arrived on November 12th with the Supreme Court's ruling in Kerrigan. Today, I am here to speak in support of Senate Bill Number 899.
There are lawyers testifying later who can speak to this bill's technical elements better than I can. My role is a simpler one. I am here to say thank you to this Committee for moving the dialogue toward marriage equality forward in our state.
I am also here to speak on behalf of the 20,000 plus members of Love Makes A Family, who support the Kerrigan decision. I can sum up their sentiments using the word from my favorite sign at the Decision Day victory rally in October. Proud of my state.
Because that is the feeling. People are proud. And people are supportive. When same sex couples began to marry in Connecticut in November there were no major protests. There was no backlash. That fact, combined with the results of two independent statewide polls that indicated clear majority support for the court's ruling shows that this issue was settled in Connecticut.
The bill being heard today will close this final chapter on the efforts and legal discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Marriage equality is the law in Connecticut, and this bill won't make it any more legal. What it will do, however, is conform our state statutes to the Kerrigan ruling and clear up confusion that exists because of Connecticut's civil union law.
It will also clarify issues related to recognition and remove demeaning language that was added as a compromise to assure passage of the so-called gay rights bill.
That language was insulting to many of us when it was added 18 years ago, and today it is simply unacceptable. The language made some Legislators feel comfortable back in 1991, but all its talk of not condoning homosexuality and not requiring the teaching of homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle, had no legal impact then, and repealing it will have no legal impact now.
So why repeal this section at all? Because words matter, and the only thing the words referenced in Section 17 do is to demean gay people in our families. Our state has moved beyond that.
The court's majority in Kerrigan said as much, citing this language as an example of prejudice and state-sponsored disapproval of gay and lesbian people that is no longer acceptable.
In preparation for today's hearing, I looked back at my testimony from the first hearing the Judiciary Committee held on this issue back on March 16, 2001. I closed my remarks then with words that are just as appropriate today as they were eight years and ten days ago.
What could possibly be wrong with making it easier for me to take care of and be responsible for the person I've made a lifelong commitment to?
What could possibly be wrong with allowing the same thing for the other couples here today? Marriage is about building stronger families. Building stronger families builds stronger communities, and that is a good thing for all of us. Thank you.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you, Anne. And you're very gracious to thank us, but certainly this whole issue could not have come to this place without your work and the work of the many dedicated men and women of Love Makes A Family, and all of the supporters of Love Makes A Family, especially the members of the faith communities that have been so helpful to you and (inaudible) over the years.
And I have no questions, but I understand that congratulations are in order to you as well on your marriage. So congratulations.
ANNE STANBACK: Thank you.
SEN. MCDONALD: We, for good, bad, or indifferent, whether you are pro or con on issues, we do ask that members of the public not display positive or negative reaction to the things that are said in public hearings. Are there any questions for Anne? Representative Lawlor.
REP. LAWLOR: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and congratulations for me, too. You know, I found out like everybody else that I got a thing in the mail that said you guys eloped, right, but I'm sure it was a wonderful scene.
In any event, you mention in your testimony something that I recall, and that is the deliberation of the Legislature back in 1991 when language was added to the statutes as part of the bill that outlawed discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment and in housing.
And I don't specifically recall. Were you involved in that whole effort back then?
ANNE STANBACK: I was yeah.
REP. LAWLOR: And so, many of my colleagues here on the Committee and elsewhere in the Legislature have asked about why this specific provision is in this bill, why repeal this statute.
And I think it might be useful just for a minute to try and explain what that statute is, how it got there, what it actually says, so that people understand what is really being contemplated here.
So you said that this was a compromise added to the bill. Could you just explain what the original, what the basic bill says, and why this, what your understanding was of why this language was added on at the end?
ANNE STANBACK: The basic bill simply added sexual orientation to the state anti-discrimination laws, so it was pretty straightforward. And what the language that's referenced in Section 17 says is, and I won't read the whole thing but nothing in the gay rights bill shall be deemed or construed to mean, and then there were four things.
It should not be construed to mean that there were numerical quotas required once the sexual orientation bill passed.
That it shouldn't be construed to mean that schools were going to have to teach about homosexuality in a certain way, that it did not say that the state condoned homosexuality.
So, I don't know if you call it a double negative, but it basically did not have any legal impact, but I think people just wanted to, it just make some Legislators feel comfortable enough to actually be able to vote on the bill.
REP. LAWLOR: And would it be fair to say that back then there was a, because there have been a number of years between the time this, the anti-discrimination proposal first got to the Legislature.
ANNE STANBACK: Eighteen.
REP. LWWLOR: Eighteen years, right? And then the culmination was 1991, and as I recall it passed. It was an overwhelming vote and there was a bipartisan support for it, so at the end of the day there was real consensus around enacting this into out statutes. Is that right?
ANNE STANBACK: That's right.
REP. LAWLOR: And when you say anti-discrimination, I think some people may not understand the details, but in essence what it said is, you can't be fired from your job or evicted from your apartment just because you're gay. Right? That's the essence of it.
ANNE STANBACK: Denied credit or be denied public accommodations.
REP. LAWLOR: And prior to this, in theory, an employer could say, or a landlord could say, you're out of here because I don't like gays, right? And then after this law passed, that would be an illegal practice just the same would be if you did that to someone because of their race or their religion or anything else? Is that right?
ANNE STANBACK: That's right.
REP. LAWLOR: And the concern that people had, I think, and correct me if I'm wrong, was that if this anti-discrimination bill passed, then some court down the road would use the very fact that the Legislature passed this bill to say, well, obviously, now there has to be same sex marriage, right?
I mean, that was the concern that was expressed back then, right?
ANNE STANBACK: Yes.
REP. LAWLOR: And the reason, one of the reasons offered for adding this language was whether or not it's a good idea to have same sex marriage, you can't use this specific statute to say that the Legislature must have intended same sex marriage by passing the thing. It was clarifying really what we weren't doing at that time? Right?
ANNE STANBACK: Correct.
REP. LAWLOR: Okay. Now, there are actually five provisions, right? The first one says nothing here is to condone homosexuality or bisexuality and I think there's a few other things on that list.
But when you hear people talking about condoning homosexuality, what does that mean to you?
ANNE STANBACK: It is a buzz word of sorts. I mean, I think of it, and when no one is condoning, or is the state condoning heterosexuality? I am who I am and I don't need the condoning of the state, but I do need equal legal protection.
REP. LAWLOR: So do you mean by that just like whatever condoning actually means. I mean, it's a free country and whatever you are you are, any more than we condone people of a particular religious faith or national origin.
I mean, you characterize it as demeaning. I mean, why is that demeaning to be condoned?
ANNE STANBACK: Well, what's demeaning is that of all the groups that are covered under the anti-discrimination statute, the Legislature felt that only to add this kind of language saying what they weren't doing just as it affects gay and lesbian and bisexual people.
REP. LAWLOR: So, do you think it would affect if we just singled out, let's say, I don't know, Native Americans, we're going to condone them but we're not going to discriminate against them but we're not going to condone them either. Don't think we're condoning it just because we're not going be able to (inaudible).
I mean, does that seem like maybe if you were a Native American like my father is, you'd be a little offended by that?
ANNE STANBACK: Yes. It's sort of a backhanded compliment. We're going to give you these rights, but we sure don't want you to think that we think you're okay.
REP. LAWLOR: Right. And it seems like 20 years later that's a little out of step with certainly the public opinion in the State of Connecticut in terms of gays and lesbians. Would that be fair to say?
ANNE STANBACK: That is fair to say, and I think, I actually hadn't thought about this before, but the Legislature put it in for a certain reason, but in fact the majority in the Kerrigan ruling chose this particular section of the statute as the reason, as one of the reasons for giving heightened scrutiny to people because of their sexual orientation.
REP. LAWLOR: There's a lot of ironies in this process.
ANNE STANBACK: There is.
REP. LAWLOR: And one of the ironies is the very passage of that, this sort of insulting language helped to make the case of a history of persecution against gays and lesbians in the state. Isn't that right?
ANNE STANBACK: That's correct.
REP. LAWLOR: Because the Legislature actually voted to put this language in there.
ANNE STANBACK: That's correct.
REP. LAWLOR: Also, kind of interesting since I was involved in this other debate, too, about civil unions, the whole battle about whether or not we would add the definition of marriage to the statutes and singled out as an example, the Legislature for no apparent reason going out of their way to make an argument that gay couples are a little bit less than straight couples.
It's interesting that this additional language had the opposite of the intended effect.
ANNE STANBACK: That's right. And I go back to my testimony. I think words do matter, and you know, young people if they are gay and they read our statute, you know, is this the kind of language that is going to make them feel good about themselves, or, you know, feel self hatred.
REP. LAWLOR: So there's five provisions in the statute. We just talked about that first one about the condoning homosexuality but the last two seem to be obviously obsolete. The provision that says nothing in the 1991 statute should be interpreted to somehow allow for same sex marriage, right? That's done.
ANNE STANBACK: That's done.
REP. LAWLOR: And then the other thing is, nothing in the 1991 statute should be interpreted to create a special classification for gays and lesbians, something like that, right? Actually, that's what the Supreme Court did. They did it not because of any law that had been passed in the Legislature.
They did it in part because of this very statute we're seeking to repeal right now, but that's done, too. The court said what they said, and that's the law of the state.
That leaves two, and the other two provisions seem to have, in the focus of most of the questions I've gotten at least from colleagues here or from constituents or citizens around the state, and that deals with sex education and quotas or affirmative action.
So just to be clear, and maybe you're not an expert on this stuff, I'm not sure, but this particular statute said, nothing in the anti-discrimination law should be interpreted to require education in the schools. Do you have it in front of you? I don't know.
ANNE STANBACK: To authorize the promotion of homosexuality or bisexuality in educational institutions will require the teaching in educational institutions of homosexuality or bisexuality as an acceptable lifestyle.
REP. LAWLOR: Well, there's a certain insulting aspect of that language, too, but apart from that, since 1991, the Legislature has adopted statutes on sex education in the schools, and what takes place is clearly governed by those statues, and basically what they say is, local school districts can choose to have whatever curriculum they want on that topic, and if they do, parents have every right not to have their children participate in that.
So that's the law. So with or without the statute, we're seeking to repeal, that's the law. In order to for it to change, the Legislature would have to vote to change that. Is that your understanding?
ANNE STANBACK: Yes.
REP. LAWLOR: So repealing this really doesn't have any effect, because there's already a law that would still remain about sex education in the schools. Right?
ANNE STANBACK: Correct.
REP.LAWLOR: And the final thing is, quotas or affirmative action. And I think you may be well aware of this, but there are a bunch of laws about affirmative action. I think this Legislature has established them and they deal with racial minorities, ethnic minorities, and women, basically.
The Legislature's never passed a law about affirmative action seeking to hire more gays and lesbians as far as I know. Is that your, I mean you've been involved in this movement. Have you ever heard of that one?
ANNE STANBACK: I have not.
REP. LAWLOR: Okay. So I think that is what it is. I think Justice Borden, in his dissenting opinion, commented there actually are a lot of gays and lesbians in state government as it turns out, some relatively influential, so it would be kind of hard to imagine there being an affirmative action project for that.
But in any event, getting rid of this language doesn't affect the current rules on affirmative action at all.
Is that your understanding?
ANNE STANBACK: That's correct.
REP. LAWLOR: So, because you, I think you said in your opening testimony that the repeal of this old statute, which was added as an accommodation to get a bill passed 19 years ago, would have no effect because there's already other laws on the same topic that would not be repealed, and people seem to be pretty comfortable with all those other laws. Is that your understanding?
ANNE STANBACK: That's correct.
REP. LAWLOR: Well thank you. It's good to go through this because some of my colleagues just asked me this today, and I thought it would be important to point that out. And there actually are some interesting background information prepared by the Office of Legislative Research and other offices about this issue, what is the actual legal significance of deleting this, what appears to be arguably as an archaic statute from another time, so thank you.
Are there other questions? If not, thanks again.
ANNE STANBACK: Thank you.
REP. LAWLOR: And this may be the last time you have to come here and do this.
ANNE STANBACK: I think it may be. Thank you.
REP. LAWLOR: Okay. Next is Ben Klein. And Attorney Klein will be followed by Janet Peck and Carol Conklin, who are testifying together and then Peter Wolfgang.
BEN KLEIN: Thank you, Representative Lawlor and members of the Committee. My name is Ben Klein. I'm an attorney with Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders. GLAD is proud to have been the lead counsel for the plaintiffs in the Kerrigan case, and we are also thrilled today to be able to extend our great appreciation to Representative Lawlor, Senator McDonald, to members of this Committee for the tremendous leadership that has been demonstrated in this state to advance fairness, and equality for lesbian and gay couples.
There is no question that for decades now, the State of Connecticut, both in the Legislature and in the courts, has been at the forefront nationally, of really advancing respect and dignity for its gay and lesbian citizens in establishing equality.
The Kerrigan decision in ruling that it's unconstitutional to exclude same sex couples from marriage, I think it's important to keep in mind what Kerrigan did.
Kerrigan focused a tremendous amount of its attention on the long history of unjustified discrimination that lesbians and gay men have experienced. And Kerrigan established that the state can no longer unjustifiably treat lesbians and gay men differently, nor can the state pass a law whose sole purpose is to disapprove of gay and lesbian people.
In short, what Kerrigan means bottom line is our laws and institutions must be neutral as to sexual orientation.
The bill today really affirms those principles in Kerrigan. It conforms the state's statutes to those equality mandates in a number of ways, by making sure that the common law of Connecticut on recognition of legal relationships entered elsewhere is applied fairly and neutrally to all relationships, including those of same sex couples by encouraging other states to respect all marriages of Connecticut citizens and by providing an orderly transition from a system in which we've had two classes of citizens. Those who can enter civil unions, and those who can marry, to assist them in which everyone is treated equally and we have one system.
I would like to focus my remarks on three areas that have come up in the testimony today, and the first is the issue of those who are authorized by statute to solemnize marriages, and this bill ensures that the religious liberty and free exercise concerns of clergy are respected, and that no clergy has to solemnize any marriage that they choose not to consistent with their rights under the First Amendment, and under the Connecticut Constitution.
But justices of the peace are a different matter, because justices of the peace are state actors. This issue actually arose in Massachusetts shortly after the Goodrich decision there. And as many of you know, we had a Governor at that time who was a staunch opponent of marriage and who was very critical publicly of the Goodrich decision.
But Governor Romney instructed justices of the peace in Massachusetts that they could not refuse to marry same sex couples, and the reason for that was that in spite of his opposition, Governor Romney understood that that would be unconstitutional because state actors cannot discriminate under the Constitution.
And this issue has come up way earlier in our history, and I have discussed in my testimony, an opinion from the Texas Attorney General in 1983 when the issue came up there, whether a justice of the peace could refuse to marry an inter-racial couple, and it's really an exact analogy to why it would be unconstitutional given the Kerrigan decision, for justices of the peace in Connecticut to refuse to marry same sex couples.
They are state actors and they cannot violate the equal protection provisions of the Constitution. They are very distinct from clergy who have their own free exercise rights.
I would also like to address briefly the language that was just discussed during the Anne Stanback testimony about the antiquated language in the sexual orientation, non-discrimination law passed in 1991.
And as has been indicated, this language had no purpose other than to express anti-gay prejudice, and it is because of the Kerrigan decision that a light
was really put on this language, and is, I think, a compelling reason for the Legislature to remove it.
And without going into any lengthy reading of Kerrigan, I just want to give you a sense of what the Kerrigan Court said about this language. The Court said, by singling out same sex relationships in this manner, there is of course no such statutory disclaimer for opposite sex relationships.
The Legislature effectively has proclaimed, as a matter of state policy, that same sex relationships are disfavored. That policy, which is unprecedented among the various anti-discrimination measures enacted in the state, represents a kind of state-sponsored disapproval of same sex relationships and serves to undermine the legitimacy of homosexual relationships and perpetuate feelings of personal inferiority and inadequacy among gay persons.
This language is really, it is not only antiquated, but to allow it to be part of this state's law in light of Kerrigan, in light of the changes that this Legislature has made to the laws of Connecticut since 1991 would be a stain on the great accomplishments that the Legislature and the Committee, and the State of Connecticut have made.
Finally, I wanted to comment briefly about some of the discussion earlier about the scope of businesses, commercial entities, where a proprietor may not want to serve lesbian and gay people.
I think the Committee actually gave--
REP. LAWLOR: Can I just say one thing. Normally, well, the bell's not, normally we ask you to limit it, but I would be asking you all these questions just as soon as you're done, anyway. So please proceed--
BEN KLEIN: I'm almost done.
REP. LAWLOR: --because I'd like you to explain.
BEN KLEIN: I apologize for running over.
REP. LAWLOR: That's okay.
BEN KLEIN: But I think the Committee members themselves have engaged in a very eloquent discussion showing the slippery slope that opening up that Pandora's box would involve.
Clearly, if it were just anti-sexual orientation, there may be some problems in light of Kerrigan. If it were opened up to all forms of discrimination I think those issues have been well raised in the Committee.
But the point I think to keep in mind, is that there is a significant difference in balancing religious liberty and non-discrimination. There's a significant difference between clergy and religious entities and individuals who open themselves up to the public. They're commercial entities. They make money by running their business and the State of Connecticut has a very strong interest in ensuring that those businesses are available to all citizens and not to only some citizens based on the personal beliefs of the business owner.
Thank you, and I do apologize for exceeding my time.
REP. LAWLOR: Thanks, Attorney Klein, and since you are a lawyer, you know, as a matter of fact let me just say, you were the attorney who represented the plaintiffs in the Kerrigan case, and the argument in front of the State Supreme Court was one of the first telecast under the new technology they have over there.
Not just that it was on TV, but they had the sort of close up shots and you get a real good sense of what was going on in the room, and everyone I've spoken to, and certainly I feel the same way myself, watched not just that hearing, but your particular presentation.
Regardless of how you feel about the issue, I was extremely impressive given, especially given the graveness of the thing, you know, the way it was presented, the way it was explained, the engagement with the justices of the Court was I think, part of this great tradition we have in Connecticut to try and work our way through complicated emotional problems in a very civil and respectful way, and I just want to thank you for that and congratulate you on the outcome, of course.
But that was very impressive, impressive work that day.
BEN KLEIN: Thank you.
REP. LAWLOR: Now, having said that, you are from Massachusetts, are you not?
BEN KLEIN: I am.
REP. LAWLOR: Okay. And I'm taking that a Red Sox fan?
BEN KLEIN: Absolutely.
REP. LAWLOR: Okay. Well, I am prepared to condone that. But I want to ask you some Massachusetts questions.
BEN KLEIN: Okay.
REP. LAWLOR: I've gotten a lot of emails expressing concern about this particular bill, and more often than not, people mention the adoption agency situation in Massachusetts, and I think we all sort of know the outcome of that.
In other words, I think it was Catholic Charities had an adoption service. They closed down, ultimately, but why that happened I think is not 100 percent clear. Do you know why, what that had to do with the marriage decision in Massachusetts and how that all came to be? Do you know the actual facts on that one?
BEN KLEIN: Yes, I do. The, it actually, the decision of Catholic Charities to stop its state contract to the adoption placements actually had nothing to do with the implementation of marriage in Massachusetts.
I think what happened was that that decision was made about the same time that marriages began in Massachusetts and so there was confusion in the public mind that those two things were somehow related.
Catholic Charities had been, had a state contract to do adoption placements for many years, starting sometime in the 80s, and they were placing children with same sex couples.
When that came to light in the press, there were some people within the Church and within Catholic Charities who had concerns about the agency doing that.
But what the agency acknowledged was that under the laws of Massachusetts, wholly separate from the implementation of marriage in Massachusetts, but under the nondiscrimination laws, which have been effect since about 1989 in Massachusetts, Catholic Charities could not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation based on that, you know, that law passed in 1989, and therefore, they chose to, rather than to continue in compliance with the nondiscrimination law, to cease their adoption placement contract.
It's important to keep in mind that this was a state contract. Catholic Charities was getting state money to make these adoption placements, and they had to comply with state nondiscrimination laws.
REP. LAWLOR: And so the nondiscrimination law you're referring to in Massachusetts, I take it, is almost identical to the Connecticut law, which was passed in 1991.
BEN KLEIN: That's correct.
REP. LAWLOR: And so, as people think about what, if any impact the existence of same sex marriages, or marriage equality in Connecticut would have on things like adoption agencies affiliated with religious organizations, it really had nothing to do with the law that was passed in 91, not the decision that was rendered by the Supreme Court last year. Is that basically the case?
BEN KLEIN: That's correct. That's correct.
REP. LAWLOR: And discrimination in public accommodations, whether it's a hotel or a restaurant, or a workplace or an adoption agency, based on sexual orientation has been prohibited here for almost 20 years. So if there were going to be problems, they would have already occurred.
BEN KLEIN: That's right. That's right.
REP. LAWLOR: And so I think it's important to clarify that because some people I think linked the timing of this decision by Catholic Charities to close their adoption operation with the recently decreed marriage equality in Massachusetts and assumed that one led to the other. But you're saying that that's not the case?
BEN KLEIN: That's exactly correct.
REP. LAWLRO: And my research indicates the same information you've just conveyed, and I think anybody who is listening or watching who wanted to just double check that, it's relatively easy to figure this out, that it had nothing to do with the marriage decision. Catholic Charities had been allowing gay couples to adopt kids for a long time, but for whatever reason reversed field in 2005, but it's not directly related to the marriages.
BEN KLEIN: That's right. And in fact if people go back, they want approval, newspaper articles on this, the spokespeople for Catholic Charities themselves said that these placements with same sex couples were made because of the nondiscrimination law in Massachusetts, and those placements began in the early 90s, long before we had marriage for same sex couples.
REP. LAWLOR: And as it turns out, all this was actually being paid for with taxpayer dollars.
BEN KLEIN: That's correct.
REP. LAWLOR: Okay. Thank you. Are there further questions? Representative Hetherington.
REP. HETHERINGTON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would, you're explaining this in a very lucid fashion. I'm going to take advantage of that to improve my understanding.
A lot of discussion has come forth on the photographer or the baker. Now the banning of discrimination in that context, where is that found? Where is that based? Is that on the 91 law in Connecticut?
BEN KLEIN: Yes.
REP. HETHERINGTON: Okay.
BEN KLEIN: It's based on the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation being placed in a public accommodation, which was passed in the 1991 law. And I think it's important as you raise the timing of this to keep in mind that again, these are not new issues. Marriage really doesn't change. People could have asked, you know, 10 years ago people could have gone to a photographer and said we want you to photograph our commitment ceremony, so there's nothing really new in terms of the issues that have been raised as a result of the Kerrigan decision.
These are, these are issues that have, you know, been around for a long time, and the law has really, I think, created already established principles to deal with the intercession of religious liberty and the state's interest in nondiscrimination.
REP. HETHERINGTON: And the 91 law generally parallels laws that prohibit discrimination on other bases, race, whatever.
BEN KLEIN: That's correct.
REP. HETHERINGTON: Now these activities, business activities where discrimination is not permitted, they do not depend on state action, I guess. It's not like a restaurant or a bar that has a liquor license.
A photographer, for example, operates without state license or without, so they don't depend on those kinds of state involvement.
BEN KLEIN: That's right, yes.
REP. HETHERINGTON: Okay, thank you.
REP. LAWLOR: And I think just for clarity, the three categories that are covered in the anti-discrimination law are public accommodations, which are restaurants, hotels, any other kind of business where you can pay for a service. Housing and credit practices, those are the three categories and there's a litany of illegal forms of discrimination, race, national origin, religion, sexual orientation and a few others.
Further questions? Senator McLachlan.
SEN. MCLACHLAN: Thank you, Mr. Chair and thank you for your testimony and your expertise in this area.
You mentioned Catholic Charities in Boston and so I certainly whipped out the Google here to take a look at one article that I'm reading from March 10, 2006 where the President of Catholic Charities saw no alternative but to pull out of the business altogether, according to their statement on March 10, 2006.
“The world was very different when Catholic Charities began this ministry at the threshold of the 20th century. The world changed often and we adapted the ministry to meet changing times and needs. At all times we sought to place the welfare of children at the heart of our work, Father Hare and Cannon said in their statement.”
“But now we have encountered a dilemma we cannot resolve. In spite of much effort and analysis, Catholic Charities of Boston finds that it cannot reconcile the teaching of the Church, which guides our work in the statutes and regulations of the Commonwealth. The issue is adoption of same sex couples and we realize that for many, it is a sensitive, deeply felt issue of conscience.”
Now just for clarification, you're saying that this was a different law, not the same sex ruling in Massachusetts, but effectively in Connecticut, does the same thing happen because the Kerrigan decision and the codification of that with Senate Bill Number 899, does it effectively do the same thing?
BEN KLEIN: Well, in terms of public accommodations it doesn't, but one of the issues you're raising, and this was never really flushed out is that this was a, in Massachusetts, this was a state contract.
So taxpayer dollars were paying for these services, so that I think that it would probably be true that under the nondiscrimination law passed by this state in 1991, a public accommodation could not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.
But it probably would be true that if the state funded services that were, that in fact discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation, that law would be subject to a higher level of review because of Kerrigan.
But the problem that Catholic Charities found itself in, in terms of their conflict was created because of the anti-discrimination law and that would be true in Massachusetts as well as Connecticut.
SEN. MCLACHLAN: Thank you for that answer, but again, I'm not a lawyer, but I'm sensing that the Kerrigan decision is an anti-discrimination decision, and so it is the same thing, isn't it? Lay person's speak now.
BEN KLEIN: Well, I think it would really be a question of, I'm not trying to avoid it, it's just that, in Massachusetts it's never been found its way into a court proceeding, so it was never flushed out.
Catholic Charities certainly felt like they had to stop doing the adoptions because of the anti-discrimination law and they said that explicitly, so that was certainly their understanding of why they had to terminate the adoptions.
I think it's a question of whether you're looking at it as an issue of a public accommodation or as an issue of state action because of the use of taxpayer dollars. But both of them, you know, I don't know if a court would actually look at the services that Catholic Charities provided as in fact the state itself is providing those as opposed to looking at it simply through the lens of the nondiscrimination law. That was never really established.
But there's no question that the nondiscrimination law felt it would prohibit sexual orientation discrimination in those services.
SEN. MCLACHLAN: And I'm sure the vision of the leadership of our Committee is looking to assure that by codifying the Kerrigan decision in Senate Bill Number 899, that we won't have questions going down the road, and you know, I honestly applaud the efforts that we find a way to be sure that we don't go into a quagmire of questioning the Supreme Court decision, the Supreme Court of Connecticut's decision on this and so, this discussion is very important, I believe.
I'm convinced that we're just going to have law suit mania if we don't get it right now, and I think that the legal scholars that have suggested that we get it right now are very correct in their assertion and frankly, their demands on us that we get it right.
But that leads me to another question about Massachusetts, and if I'm not mistaken in Massachusetts there was a decision. And the decision called on the Legislature to codify it, and they never did.
BEN KLEIN: Are you speaking of the Goodrich, the marriage decision?.
SEN. MCLACHLAN: Yes. But isn't there something that hasn't happened that just sort of finished the business in Massachusetts as it relates to same sex marriage. I understand that there's still a step that has to be taken by the Legislature and they have failed to do so.
BEN KLEIN: No. That's actually not correct. The Goodrich decision what it did was, it said that it was unconstitutional to exclude same sex couples from marriage. It ordered the state to begin issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples.
But what it did was, it stayed the judgment for six months to give the Legislature an opportunity to act if it so chose, and the Legislature did nothing, but there was nothing required of the Legislature to actually make Goodrich an operative, effective decision and marriages in Massachusetts began six months after the Goodrich decision was issued in accordance with that opinion.
SEN. MCLACHLAN: And so, again, not a lawyer, stayed the decision for six months. That's sort of a message to the Legislature from the bench saying, you've got work to do. Is that sort of what they mean when they say that?
BEN KLEIN: No. No. I think that, and I apologize. It just simply means the judgment would not go into effect, the decision would not go into effect until six months after.
I think it was simply a gesture of respect from one branch of government to the other to simply give it the time, an opportunity to conform the laws to the decision if the Legislature so chose.
But the Court'S opinion is, it operates on its own, excuse me, and it went into effect without any action by the Legislature.
SEN. MCLACHLAN: So in your judgment, what would happen in Connecticut if Senate Bill Number 899 is not passed, and we are just left with the decision of the Supreme Court of Connecticut? What happens? Are we going into the same quagmire that we're concerned about with improper language of Senate Bill Number 899, or do we just sort of hum along and have some conflicting words in state statute that people aren't comfortable with?
BEN KLEIN: Well, I think there are a couple of considerations, and first of all, the Kerrigan decision is already in effect.
SEN. MCLACHLAN: Yes.
BEN KLEIN: And people are getting married and that will not change. But I think that it is, first of all I think Connecticut is in a somewhat different situation because Connecticut passed its civil union law. Massachusetts had not done that.
So I think it's actually a very admirable and important thing for this Legislature to take up a bill like Senate Bill Number 899 to ensure that there is no confusion.
There are some people who are confused by the, why do we have civil unions and marriage? Why do we still have two systems in place when equality means we should have one system?
So I think that what this bill does is clarify the equality mandate of Kerrigan. It eliminates confusion among people, when you have two statuses for same sex couples, and it eliminates language in the statute that Kerrigan, unlike in Massachusetts, that Kerrigan has specifically pointed to and said, this language is solely because of anti-gay bias and prejudice, such as removing the language in Section 17.
So, those are the things that I think are important to do in passing this bill. I think that it will ensure a smooth transition from the civil union system to a marriage system, and eliminate aspects of Connecticut's law, which really do reflect inequality.
SEN. MCLACHLAN: So are you suggesting then that the Kerrigan decision, which I've read, although I have not read and studied as a legal scholar as many people around me have, that Section 17 deleting Section 46a-81r is required as part of the Kerrigan decision that we must strike that language from the state statute?
BEN KLEIN: It's not required, but I think that what the Supreme Court has said very clearly is, the Supreme Court has said the state cannot disapprove same sex couples, the state cannot treat lesbian and gay people unequally, and the Kerrigan decision specifically pointed to that language and said, this language has no purpose other than to reflect bias and disapproval against same sex couples, and is really just evidence of discrimination by the state in the past.
You are correct that there's nothing in Kerrigan that mandates the removal of that provision, but I think that given the fact that Kerrigan has pointed that out so sharply and clearly, it really would be a stain on the tremendous accomplishments of this Legislature, to leave on the law, language of prejudice, and that's what the Supreme Court said.
The Supreme Court said that this language is language that has not been these kinds of gratuitous, anti-gay comments, have not been levied by the Legislature and any other group, and that should be reason enough.
This state should be proud of everything that's been accomplished. It really is a leader in the nation, and this is a vestige of past discrimination, which should be removed.
SEN. MCLACHLAN: Well, it's an interesting observation. It's a leader in the nation when it's only, you know, one of two in some 50 states. I think that it's a leader in that it sort of stumbled into it. I'm not sure that the Legislature was actually the one that was able to tackle this issue the way I would have hoped it would have happened.
You know, I'm personally not in favor of laws being sort of handed down from the bench. I'm not sure that's the democratic process that I'm real comfortable with.
But the decision, back to the decision, the Kerrigan decision, and how it zeroes in, as you say, on language of Section 17, I could see where the decision would affect the statement, nothing in our statute, this is, there's five points to Section 17, but nothing in our, or there's five parts to Section 46a-81r, nothing in our statutes is meant to imply the State of Connecticut condones homosexuality or bisexuality or any equivalent lifestyle, and then it begins with the next four sections.
Would the Kerrigan decision have stated somewhere clearly, the next number two that says, to authorize the promotion of homosexuality or bisexuality in educational institutions or require the teaching in educational institutions of homosexuality or bisexuality as an acceptable lifestyle.
Are you suggesting the Kerrigan decision says strike that also?
BEN KLEIN: Yes.
SEN. MCLACHLAN: And so the Kerrigan decision says that that should be part of curriculum now?
BEN KLEIN: No. Let me clarify what the Kerrigan decision is saying about this. But before we do that, let's start with what this language means.
When this language was passed in 1991, it actually did not prevent any school from teaching about same sex relationships or lesbian and gay people in a positive light. This language did not prevent that at all. It had no effect on that.
Similarly, if this language is removed, it will not require or authorize any school district to teach anything about gay and lesbian people.
The law around curricula has been very clear for a long time, that local school districts have broad discretion to make decisions among educators and school administrators about what they teach and how they teach it, and that was exactly the Supreme Court's point, which is that this language had no effect, no effect at all, other than to express disapproval of lesbian and gay people, to stigmatize a group of citizens to express disapproval, and that is why Kerrigan says this language is so objectionable.
It's gratuitous language that was put in the law to demean a group of citizens that no other protected category in the anti-discrimination laws of the State of Connecticut have ever experienced, and that's why this language should be removed.
It's meaningless language other than to express prejudice.
SEN. MCLACHLAN: Well, that's an interesting observation. I guess I'm torn now by, I respect your points. I really respect your points, but I'm really torn by the observation that part of the Connecticut General Statutes is irrelevant, and it's one thing to be irrelevant before the Kerrigan decision, which is what you basically stated, I believe, and now that it's, you're claiming it's irrelevant after the Kerrigan decision, even though the Kerrigan decision didn't say that.
Here's my concern. If our Connecticut General Statutes has feel good, is that what you're telling me basically it was? We were just trying to bargain in 91 to come up with some language to make people feel good? I'm not sure. I wasn't here. The only thing I know about 91 is that's when we got the income tax, and I don't know anything about this issue in 91.
But if you're telling me that this language was inserted in Connecticut General Statutes as a feel good measure, then it's, that whole library of Connecticut General Statutes full of that same kind of feel good stuff that we're ignoring?
I guess my point is, that if it was in the book, if it's in the law, then why wouldn't it be the law?
BEN KLEIN: Well, it has no, it did not in 1991 have any legal effect. As I said, here the Legislature in 1991 said this law, this is not a discrimination law, which does have a statute. You can't discriminate in employment. You can't discriminate in housing. You can't deny somebody, you know, access to a job because of sexual orientation.
What the Legislature was saying in this provision was, you know, nothing in this non-discrimination law is authorized to promote, you know, homosexuality, teaching of homosexuality in the schools as an acceptable lifestyle.
That's, that is a statement that has no effect, because the non-discrimination law doesn't do and doesn't for any group do any of the things that are in these four provisions.
There's nothing in. the non-discrimination law doesn't require teaching of anything, about anything, in any school. It doesn't authorize quotas or numerical goals in hiring. The non-discrimination law doesn't do that.
So these four provisions were put in because some people, I assume this, because I was not there, some Legislators were not comfortable with passing the law and wanted to put in this language that had no legal effect, but which Kerrigan has now said is simply an expression of bias.
That's all it is. It doesn't have, it doesn't, it does not now and never did force the schools to teach anything, nor did it prevent schools from teaching anything.
SEN. MCLACHLAN: Well, for clarification, how did it not prevent schools from teaching anything? Are you suggesting that a board of education can develop a curriculum of pretty much whatever they want and the state law and the state government goes along with that?
BEN KLEIN: Well, what the, the non-discrimination law that was passed in 1991, all it did was say, as Representative Lawlor mentioned, you can't be fired from a job because of your sexual orientation.
You can't be denied housing because of your sexual orientation. You can't be denied access to a public application or be denied credit simply because you're a lesbian or gay and for no other reason.
SEN. MCLACHLAN: And I agree with that.
BEN KLEIN: That's what the law did.
SEN. MCLACHLAN: I think that's good law.
BEN KLEIN: And then they added in this language that said, by the way, this law doesn't do these things, but we just want to make sure that nothing in this law is construed to do these things like authorize the teaching of homosexuality in schools.
So in fact, the non-discrimination law didn't authorize any of these things. It would not have had anything to do with what can and can't be taught in a school. It didn't then it doesn't today. All it did is include statements that had no purpose, and therefore were really just reflections of a bias in order for the law to be passed.
It is the law that choices about curricula are made by local school districts. They don't, they have broad discretion to make those decisions about what books get taught, what subjects get taught, and that's why this particular provision didn't have any impact on that.
SEN. MCLACHLAN: So if Senate Bill Number 899 passes as proposed that strikes 46a-81r, and this, specifically this point of require the teaching in educational institutions as it talks about goes away, then a board of education strikes from their curriculum any mention whatsoever of this, and frankly, I don't know. I'm not an expert on curriculum and I can't tell you what's currently taught in the public schools.
I know that I always hear stories from parents when they object to something that's being taught in the schools, but I can't tell you what the curriculum is, and even if there is a statewide curriculum on this.
But let's say the board of education has made a policy decision that they're not going to talk about it in the curriculum. They're not going to include it in the curriculum, and now this is gone from Connecticut General Statutes and someone sues the board of education and says, we want you to do that. What happens?
BEN KLEIN: Well, what this means is that the non-discrimination law cannot be used to force the schools to teach about lesbian and gay people or same sex relationships.
SEN. MCLACHLAN: But if this is gone?
BEN KLEIN: No. If this is gone, it still can't be used because it never was part of the non-discrimination law. The ability to do that was never part of the non-discrimination statute.
SEN. MCLACHLAN: So I guess my point is, it exists, 46a-81r exists in the book now. And I guess what you're telling me is that a judge, when they're considering something, is going to pretend that 46a-81r right now is invisible? That it doesn't exist because it's irrelevant? I'm confused by your statement that it's irrelevant if it's in law.
BEN KLEIN: It is of no legal effect. It's not, and I'm struggling with the way to try and--
SEN. MCLACHLAN: Well, you're not talking to a lawyer, so I appreciate your struggling a little bit.
ZBEN KLEIN: --articulate this a little better, except I'm
Like not getting to the heart of your concern. But the non-discrimination law does certain things as (inaudible). It protects people from being fired from a job, denied housing, denied access to a business, and so this language is simply saying, by the way, don't understand the non-discrimination law to do something else. Okay?
But the non-discrimination law doesn't do that in the first place. So that's why it has no legal effect.
SEN. MCLACHLAN: I know you're telling me that, but that's not what the law says. Right?
BEN KLEIN: It is what the law says because all it says is, nothing in this law shall be deemed or construed to mean these things.
SEN. MCLACHLAN: That's what the law says now.
BEN KLEIN: Right.
SEN. MCLACHLAN: If Senate Bill Number 899 passes, the law no longer says that.
BEN KLEIN: Right.
SEN. MCLACHLAN: But you're telling me that even though it is the law now, it's irrelevant and it will not effect it if it's absent later?
BEN KLEIN: That's correct.
SEN. MCLACHLAN: But that, frankly, sir, that doesn't make sense to me.
BEN KLEIN: Well, I'm not sure I'm doing a good job, I think that of explaining this to you, because the only way I can say it is, that language in 1991 was added into the non-discrimination law, and it was language that in a sense should never have been there because it has no effect on the scope of the non-discrimination law, so it was gratuitous, meaningless language of no legal effect.
SEN. MCLACHLAN: Okay. Well, I guess we'll agree to disagree. I'm just perplexed that we have a law on the books that I'm being told by a lawyer that it's irrelevant. It's irrelevant that it's there now and it's irrelevant if it's erased. I just don't, you know, I don't understand that statement.
If the desire of this bill was to codify the Kerrigan decision, then isn't it the only thing that needs to be repealed in that section, the portion that deals with the authorization and the recognition of the right to marry?
BEN KLEIN: Well, I think that the Supreme Court when it was discussing this language, talked about all of the provisions of 81r, and it talked about all of them as having no purpose other than having an expression of bias. So that's why I think the Legislature should repeal the entire section.
This is a state that's committed to the eradication of bias and the Supreme Court has now said that this has no purpose other than to reflect bias. It seems to me that that's a good reason to get rid of this language.
SEN. MCLACHLAN: But if we get rid of it, it doesn't change anything because it really didn't exist to begin with?
BEN KLEIN: It doesn't change the scope of the non-discrimination law or the way in which the non-discrimination law can be used.
SEN. MCLACHLAN: Okay. Thank you.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you very much. Let me ask a couple of quick questions, sort of as a corollary to Senator McLachlan's questions. Maybe we can approach this from a different perspective.
As I read the current language under 46a-81r, it talks about, it uses an interesting verb. It uses the verb to condone, right, which at least to me sort of has an implication of acceptance with some tacit approval.
And so, when you look at that in the context of condoning homosexuality or bisexuality as it points out in Subsection 2 as an acceptable lifestyle, inherent in condoning something as something that's acceptable, seems to me to have some social or political approval or disapproval.
And if that's true, isn't it also true that the Supreme Court in Kerrigan said that the mere fact that as a political statement, giving social or political acceptance to homosexuality or bisexuality as an acceptable lifestyle is in itself a stigmatizing and discriminatory result by legislative action.
BEN KLEIN: That's right. The Court said precisely that.
SEN. MCDONALD: So by removing that language, it would be removing the stigmatizing effect of condoning or deeming something to be politically or socially acceptable when as a public policy matter it's irrelevant because it's a constitutionally protected group of individuals who have been historically discriminated against.
BEN KLEIN: That's right.
SEN. MCDONALD: So, I don't know if that advances the debate, but it does occur to me that since this legislation was passed in 1991, there have been a lot of development in our schools, not the least of which is the inclusion of, in many of our schools, of gay straight alliances, which certainly does seem to indicate that many schools at least want to acknowledge that there are gay students in the public schools who need to be incorporated and integrated into the educational experience.
BEN KLEIN: That's right. That's exactly right, and there was nothing in 81r that would prevent a school from doing that.
SEN. MCDONALD: And as to the, you know, maybe it's just my personal opinion, but it always seems to me that when we pass laws they have either positive or negative mandates associated with them, that there is something affirmative that needs to be done, or something that we preclude as a matter of public policy from happening, and there's nothing in this language that has either that positive or that negative implication. Is that fair to say?
BEN KLEIN: That's right. I think that's actually a very good way of explaining why this language has no particular legal effect.
SEN. MCDONALD: Okay. And apparently you talked about this when I was out of the room, but in describing that language, the Supreme Court actually pointed to it as an indicia, if you will, of official disapproval by negative implication of homosexuality or bisexuality.
BEN KLEIN: That's right.
SEN. MCDONALD: And as part and parcel of the decision, that whole context was considered to create a stigmatizing effect on the feelings of inferiority, and indeed perhaps the political powerlessness of homosexuals in our state.
BEN KLEIN: Right.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you very much. Are there other questions of Mr. Klein? Representative Morris.
REP. MORRIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Good afternoon, Mr. Klein.
BEN KLEIN: Good afternoon.
REP. MORRIS: Following up on the questions of Senator McDonald. Section 46a-81r that refers to authorizing promotion of homosexuality or bisexuality in education institutions or require the teaching in educational institutions of homosexuality or bisexuality as an acceptable lifestyle.
As I understand it, you said whether this was in or out of there, it doesn't make a difference.
BEN KLEIN: In terms, that's right. Because the schools themselves have authority over curriculum. The non-discrimination laws have no relevance to that.
REP. MORRIS: I want to counter that, and get into a little discussion here because, and looking at if we were to get rid of this, I'm wondering whether, when this was written in, this is basically implying something. It has an implied effect of stopping legislation that would do this, whether the intent was to stop legislation that would do these things.
Let me give you an example. Current educational legislation as we understand it, the state was required under 46a-89, no, got the wrong one. Sorry, the wrong statute. I have it in front of me.
Okay, here we go, was required to, it's actually 10-16(c), all right, is required to develop family life education curriculum guide. Good thing. All right?
In a part of that it says, the guide shall include a number of things, but one of them is human sexuality, all right? So the state is required to do that.
It was interesting to note, though, whatever reasons when that legislation was put together, it said the guide shall not include information pertaining to abortion as an alternative to family planning, so clearly there's a lot of political debate around this issue, so this is what the state's required to do.
Now immediately thereafter are the two pieces that I think we all generally understand that keeps the local control in place. That's Section 10-16(b), which says the family life education programs are not mandatory. So the state must do the guide, but the program is not mandatory, and it basically says, nothing in Section 10-c inclusive, shall be construed to require any local or regional board of education to develop or institute such family life education program.
So currently (inaudible) you don't have to do that. All right. The state has to do it, but locally you don't have to. It even follows up even further. In 10-16e says students are not required to participate in family life education programs. All right?
No students shall be required by any local or regional board of education to participate in any such family life program, which may be offered within such public schools. You understand the protections that are given. I think surely, that makes everyone feel comfortable.
However, if you were to take this piece of the legislation out today, which makes it clear that the state cannot be in a position to promote, to promote. I'm not talking about condone, because I have problems with the first part of 10-6 when it talks about condoning. It sounds like tolerating as opposed to promoting, something totally different.
The second part comes off promoting homosexuality and bisexuality in educational institutions. So if we got rid of that and this was no longer on the books, what would stop us as Legislators whether today, whether it's five years from now or ten years from now saying, you know what? We as a Legislature feel that, you know, we want to mandate that all kids are given this type of education as it deals with homosexuality and sexual orientation, and it's based on the curriculum guides that we, the State of Connecticut have put together. Okay?
And that may not acknowledge religious freedoms, religious perspectives, and now kids are held as captive audiences to hear teachings, where they're respectful of the people that are gay, okay, but they're hearing teaching that is contrary to what they hear within their faith perspectives.
BEN KLEIN: I'm not sure I understood your question.
REP. MORRIS: The question is, if we were to get rid of, we're doing what is suggested in this bill today, okay, because I believe this bill certainly applies and makes it clear that the state is not, we're saying the state is not going to promote that. This isn't what we're promoting. We just want to make certain that there's respect for all individuals, but there's nothing in this that says we're going to specifically promote homosexuality bisexuality or anything as a lifestyle.
And currently, basically, our legislation right now I think does assure that that's happening because local rule is still the order of the day. However, if you were to do what's being suggested here now, I think, correct me if I'm wrong, I think the state could say, you know what? We're giving these other two things that would allow local rule as it pertains to the curriculum.
And the state could say, you know, this is our curriculum guide. Every student, every child, whatever it is, and this is what we're promoting. So that's why it seems to be a safeguard. Help me to understand why it isn't. And if it has no meaning, because that's, I think that's a good example where this would clearly have meaning.
BEN KLEIN: I think the, if I'm understanding your question and point, there is, the state, I assume, and I'm not familiar with the educational statutes, but the state all the time passes educational statutes that may provide, you know, guidelines to schools and school districts about what subjects to teach and so forth.
That is apples and oranges with this non-discrimination law, and I think the point I'm trying to make is that the non-discrimination law applies to employment, public accommodation and housing. It doesn't apply to schools, so that if, it would be as if the state passed a law that said, nothing in the non-discrimination law is authorized to promote any religion within our schools.
Well, the non-discrimination law doesn't. The non-discrimination law, that vehicle isn't something that could possibly promote any religion within the schools, so that it is there for language that is of no effect.
In other words, I really think I'm not succeeding in explaining this well--
REP. MORRIS: And I guess, I think many of us would have a challenge in accepting that when that law was put in place in the early 90s, that people were, didn't have that sense of thoughtfulness, particularly the number of lawyers that we have in our Legislature, that they would put something in law that has, that's purely insignificant. It had to have some value then, and here we are 20 years later, and I'm saying, help me to understand where it has no value today and no relevance.
BEN KLEIN: It had political reasons.
REP. MORRIS: Just in the light of the examples I'm giving you.
BEN KLEIN: It was put in place for political reasons, and no other reason.
A non-discrimination law cannot be used to sue a school to force it to teach something. So therefore, saying that nothing in this non-discrimination law shall be construed to authorize schools to teach something has no meaning.
There may be other laws the Legislature can pass, education statutes, where the Legislature may be able to weigh in about what schools do, but a non-discrimination law isn't the kind of legal vehicle that does that.
And that's why putting something in a non-discrimination law that says, this law shall not be construed to teach something in the schools is of no effect. The law doesn't do that in the first place. Does that help at all?
REP. MORRIS: Not really for me, but in terms of, you said it has no effect, but as long as it's on the books and we're making it clear, and nothing in the non-discrimination laws is intended to say that the State of Connecticut is going to promote in an educational arena, all right, the teaching of homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle, okay?
And the concern is, you know, you've heard the debate all day long, with those is we're trying to also consider religious liberties. The concern obviously is for those parents who teach their children something totally different, and their kids are respectful, all right, but now end up being captive audiences to teaching that their parents, they're totally different, and kids become conflicted. kids who are very respectful to persons who are gay. All right?
So, by taking, I don't know what the value is of taking it off as opposed to the value of keeping it on, to protect, because I think it was said earlier, the balance here is trying to protect everyone's liberty, and everyone's rights, to find that good balance in doing that.
I appreciate our Co-Chairs and a lot of discussion is happening, because we all sort of listen to each other with very open, we really have different sides of the fence on this, but we try to really hear and listen and try to really balance things.
So if one of our balances is, you want to a certain, you know what? For those who have religious liberties, religious differences, we've made it clear. You cannot treat persons who are gay in a disrespectful manner, that that will not be tolerated in the State of Connecticut. All right?
We're trying to make something of the laws that create access for persons who are gay, but at the same time recognize that there are some philosophical, some different beliefs and tenets that we need to respect from the gay persons, I mean, from religious people, so with GLAD be adverse.
I mean, if this one piece stayed on the books, would you be adverse to it? As you said in your own words, it has no effect?
BEN KLEIN: Yes.
REP. MORRIS: Please tell me why.
BEN KLEIN: Because the only reason for this provision to stay on the books is as an expression of disapproval of lesbian and gay people. That is what the Supreme Court has said.
In other words, as I think Senator McDonald indicated earlier, schools are already, some schools are already teaching course work about same sex relationships, families where two parents are the same sex. Nothing in this statute prevents that.
Other schools are not teaching it, and if this is removed, nothing would force those schools to teach that subject matter. So the only effect of this language is language that was put in place in 1991 for political reasons, not for legal reasons, but political reasons, to give comfort to those who weren't comfortable with lesbian and gay people.
And the Supreme Court has now indicated this language had no purpose other than to reflect the state's official disapproval of lesbian and gay people. That should be regarded as impermissible, and GLAD would certainly feel that if something were left in that was gratuitous language and solely of lesbian and gay people that that was demeaning and unacceptable. So that's the reason why we would not support leaving that clause in.
REP. MORRIS: If I can, I know that part of your argument that you left out that I brought forward is the possible conclusion that can come out of this, and that's, I mean, not just have the natural conclusion, but the possibility of a conclusion that because you take this out, you can then take out these other two clauses that are currently in statute that protect the very local rights that you cited that Senator McDonald brought up. But that's a yes in some districts.
It is being public, because local rule is, you know what? In that locality we believe that this ought to be taught and there's been that acceptance there, all right? However, at the same time, in another community, it may not have been, all right?
And the communities are making those decisions, just like federal rights, state rights, okay. So, and I need your, I wish you could cite to me specifically where in the Kerrigan decision it says each one of these points, one through five, are somehow disapproving of homosexuality because you keep saying it in a general sense.
BEN KLEIN: Yes.
REP. MORRIS: I think you were asked earlier, but if you can cite specifically.
BEN KLEIN: The Kerrigan, the citation for the Kerrigan decision is at 289 Connecticut, let me just, and if I'm clear, I want to make sure 289 Connecticut 135 is the citation for the Kerrigan decision and the discussion of this language is at Pages 204 and 205 of that decision.
And you will see that they are talking about the five categories, not just the one related to, which shall not be construed to marriage.
REP. MORRIS: Okay.
BEN KLEIN: For example, they do talk about it, as Senator McDonald referenced, the clause that nothing shall be construed--
SEN. MCDONALD: Then if I might, just because this is being transcribed. If you, I believe the citation, not everybody has the case in front of them. I believe it's just one paragraph of the decision. If you would be kind enough to read it for the record, I'd appreciate it.
BEN KLEIN: Certainly. It's very short.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you.
BEN KLEIN: It quotes the entire section of 46a-81. I'll quote all five of these provisions.
SEN. MCDONALD: Okay. That's great.
BEN KLEIN: And it says, by singling out same sex relationships in this manner, there is of course, no statutory disclaimer for opposite sex relationships. The Legislature has effectively has proclaimed as a matter of state policy that same sex relationships are disfavored.
That policy, which is unprecedented among the various anti-discrimination measures enacted in the state, represents a kind of state-sponsored disapproval of same sex relationships and consequently serves to undermine the legitimacy of homosexual relationships to perpetuate feelings of personal inferiority and inadequacy among gay persons, and to diminish the effect of the laws barring discrimination against gay persons.
Indeed, the purposeful description of homosexuality as a lifestyle, and they put that in quotes, as a lifestyle not condoned by the state, stigmatizes gay persons and equates their identity with conduct that is disfavored by the state.
That is the language in Kerrigan.
REP. MORRIS: So thank you very much. In fact it's interesting that even the last sentence of it gives (inaudible). I've got a problem with the condoning as well. I think that is demeaning language, quite frankly.
But thank you for making it clear because I needed to know that the entire piece is scripted there although they didn't deal with the issue that I'm talking about in terms of education.
BEN KLEIN: But what's clear because is that they're talking about, they're not merely talking about provision around the recognition of marriage. They're talking about, for example, the lifestyle language doesn't appear in the marriage clause. It appears, you know, just as nothing shall be, you know, construed to teach in educational institutions.
They use that word lifestyle in the educational institutional clause and that word lifestyle is specifically discussed by the Court.
REP. MORRIS: Thank you. I would just hope that this discussion can continue to go forward. I hear what judges say. But the Legislators do make law, and I do respect the judges and their opinions.
I do know that we have Legislators often disagreeing with judges as well. We get the opportunity to make laws based on what we think is in the best interest, and then they get the judges, whether we did the right thing in the end.
I hope we get a lot more conversation goes forward between either you and the Catholic Conference, Love Makes A Family and others, in terms of what we can do to balance the rights of all individuals.
I personally, I hear what the judges say. I personally don't, especially since even you say this doesn't make a difference being on the books, it really doesn't. I think it does make a difference in terms of it's not a political feel good for me.
I'm looking at the faces of some of the people in the room who came here today because they want to fight for religious rights, their religious freedoms, and they're not saying forget the same sex marriage stuff. Okay, the judge has done that. But they're here to promote and to fight for their rights as well, and the fact that their children have to be taught in schools.
How do we make certain that we balance their liberties with yours? Thank you very much.
BEN KLEIN: Thank you, and I certainly would be happy to participate in any further discussions.
SEN. MCDONALD: Are there any other questions from anybody for the first time? If not, Senator McLachlan for the second time.
SEN. MCLACHLAN: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I'm reading the Kerrigan decision, Page 37, and it says, in recent years our Legislature has taken substantial steps to address discrimination against gay persons. These efforts are most notably reflected in this state's gay rights law, see General Statutes 46a-81a through 46a-81r.
BEN KLEIN: Right.
SEN. MCLACHLAN: And, which broadly prohibits discrimination against a person because of his or her preference for heterosexuality, homosexuality or bisexuality having a history of such preference or being identified with such preference. I'll stop there.
They reference the gay rights law, which everybody, I think, generally speaking agrees that was a good thing in Connecticut. I don't think anybody's disputing a lot of what you've said.
But I've got to keep going back to this, it's in the book but it doesn't mean anything, and you're quoting part of the decision that says bad, bad, bad.
But yet in another spot they're saying well, this was a good thing and they're including that section. So, not a lawyer talking again, and I'm going to keep saying that to you because you were getting frustrated with me with my questioning.
Why are we talking out of both sides of our mouth with Connecticut General Statutes? That's what I don't understand. It just doesn't make any sense.
Even the decision from the Supreme Court of Connecticut to me, and again, I'm taking it out of context, but that's what we do in politics. We take everything out of context and then beat the living daylights out of it.
When you take it out of context, once again, it doesn't make sense.
BEN KLEIN: Let me first say, Senator, that any frustration I may have revealed was with myself, for feeling like I was not explaining this clearly, and not at all with your questions. I certainly hope you understand that and I don't want to be misinterpreted as having any frustration with the questions here today, and I think that everybody has engaged in a very diligent, good faith effort to clear this out and understand how to go forward. So, my frustration was with my own inability to be articulate.
But I think that the, I don't have the Kerrigan decision in front of me, but the section that you're reading, there's no question that the Court has said that Connecticut has been a leader in eradicating discrimination based on sexual orientation.
We said that in our brief, and we outlined for the Court, all of the things that Connecticut has done since 1969, not just since 1991 to eliminate discrimination.
But the Court then did, in the context of the decision, go on to say, notwithstanding the passage of the gay rights law and the progress that Connecticut has made, there are manifestations of discrimination and prejudice that not only is there a history of discrimination, but there are manifestations of discrimination and prejudice that still exist in our laws today that reflect the fact that lesbian and gay people haven't achieved full equality, and that that was one of the reasons the Court gave for establishing heightened, a closer review of discrimination against lesbian and gay people.
And it then went on to talk about 81r as one of the manifestations of ongoing expressions of prejudice and disapproval.
So you're right. They said, the gay rights law was progress that should be applauded, but they went on to say, notwithstanding that, there are still expressions of discrimination against gay people.
SEN. MCLACHLAN: So it's not unusual in the legal world to, you know, you have to read the whole thing. You can't take anything out of context.
It's an interesting thought of how much work we must have ahead if we have so many laws on our books in the State of Connecticut that were, you know, written as feel good that didn't mean anything, that we just were, you know, trying to pat somebody on the back to get a vote.
I guess we have a lot of work to do to try to clean up all that stuff because our library of Connecticut General Statutes might shrink a lot, wouldn't it, if we sort of erased all these things in there?
BEN KLEIN: Well, I'm not sure. I'm not sure that it would. I certainly, you know, haven't gotten through them. But I think the point the Supreme Court made was that this kind of provision doesn't exist for all the groups.
SEN. MCLACHLAN: Thank you, sir.
SEN. MCDONALD: Is there anything further? If not, thank you very much.
BEN KLEIN: Thank you very much.
SEN. MCDONALD: Next is Janet Peck and Carol Conklin. Good afternoon.
JANET PECK: Good afternoon.
SEN. MCDONALD: And welcome to the Judiciary Committee.
JANET PECK: Thank you. My name is Janet Peck and I am here today with my wife, Carol Conklin. Carol and I are lifelong Connecticut residents and presently live in Colchester. We are one of the plaintiff couples in the Kerrigan case and are here today in support of Senate Bill Number 899.
Thirty-three years ago, Carol and I fell in love and began to share our lives together. For all of those years we've dreamed of getting married. On January 24th of this year, our dream came true as Carol and I were joined in marriage, surrounded by our family and friends. That day will always be one of the happiest days of our lives.
After 33 years to finally be able to pledge our love and commitment to each other in a way that is honored and celebrated by everyone, everywhere felt so amazing, so satisfying and so right.
Carol would say that as a married couple we are no longer living outside of what is seen as acceptable or normal. We are now part of, rather than separate from everyone else. We are equal. We are free to be who we are.
All the wrongs that have been done to us over the years, the disrespect, the discrimination, the lack of recognition for the truth of our love, the pain of not being able to give each other the ultimate gift of love and commitment, the pain of exclusion and invisibility has begun to fade. The wounds have begun to heal.
We cannot say that we feel more connected to each other than we were before we married. We've always felt married. But we can say that we feel more connected to everyone else. We now feel more connected to our deceased parents, who taught us the true meaning of marriage, and to our family members who joyfully and willingly took an active part in our ceremony, even though many are active members of faith communities that do not support our right to marry.
And we feel more connected to the people of the community where we live. The outpouring of support to us has warmed our hearts and will never be forgotten.
After our case was won, people sent us cards of congratulations and would come up to us on the street, in the grocery store, and just about everywhere else and extend their hand in congratulations, excitingly asking us the details of our wedding plans.
Many of these people were strangers to us and had simply seen our picture in the paper or read about our story and felt compelled to show their support for our upcoming marriage.
Marriage connects us to something greater than ourselves, and to others in a way that was not possible before. As a married couple, the love that Carol and I have held in our hearts for 33 years finally feels free and at peace, and the promise of our love that had its beginnings so many years ago is now complete.
We feel so fortunate to have been able to marry in the state that we have always called home and proud that Connecticut continues to be a leader on this issue of equality. Thank you.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you very much, Janet and congratulations to both of you. I suspect when you first met each other 33 years ago you never anticipated becoming civil rights leaders in your own right, so thank you for putting yourselves forward as one of the plaintiff couples in the Kerrigan case, and I congratulate you on not only that achievement but the celebration of 33 years together. It's a tremendous accomplishment for any couple, straight or gay and you should be quite proud of it.
Are there any questions? Representative Gonzalez.
REP. GONZALEZ: Good afternoon, and congratulations both of you.
JANET PECK: Thank you.
REP. GONZALEZ: The day that you got married, you said January what?
JANET PECK: Twenty-fourth.
REP. GONZALEZ: Twenty-fourth. The day that you got married, who performed the wedding?
CAROL CONKLIN: A justice of the peace.
REP. GONZALEZ: A justice of the peace. And did that justice of the peace that performed the wedding, she was happy and she was (inaudible) Right.
CAROL CONKLIN: Yeah, she was great.
REP. GONZALEZ: And you took pictures?
CAROL CONKLIN: Oh, yeah, we took pictures.
REP. GONZALEZ: And the person that took the pictures was happy also?
CAROL CONKLIN: Yes.
REP. GONZALEZ: Okay. So you don't think there is a difference between a person, and I believe that you were happy, all of you guys were happy. But the difference between that day that the justice of peace agree with you and was happy. The people that took the pictures, the person that took the pictures was happy. So that means they agree with you.
But you don't think that putting a person that don't feel happy, don't feel comfortable, you don't think, you're not going to feel comfortable either.
You know, the day of the wedding is about happiness, of everybody being happy, everybody shared the same, and having a justice of the peace, you know, for (inaudible) because if they don't perform the wedding, he's going to get, you know, he's going violate and he's going to get fined for that.
You don't think that that would make you uncomfortable also, having a person that is doing the wedding just because he's being forced by the law?
CAROL CONKLIN: Well, I think that if you have someone in that said job to perform those ceremonies that they shouldn't show us, number one, that they were unhappy performing it. They should treat you just as they would treat anyone, with respect and dignity.
I work for an institute of the state, and I can't go around treating somebody that I don't like differently. I have to just, you know, treat everybody kindly and you know, with respect.
REP. GONZALEZ: Yeah, right. But--
CAROL CONKLIN: That's what you try to do.
REP. GONZALEZ: Right. But maybe it's not that they don't like, maybe they don't agree with, you know, maybe they don't agree. That doesn't mean that because I don't agree with you that I don't like you, you know?
CAROL CONKLIN: Absolutely.
REP. GONZALEZ: Because I can disagree with you, then I would like you as a person, you know, and I won't do anything to hurt you.
CAROL CONKLIN: So wouldn't you then--
REP. GONZALEZ: But maybe you have to also understand, you know, if there's a difference of opinion, you have your opinion and I have mine.
CAROL COHKLIN: Yes.
REP. GONZALEZ: And I will respect your opinion, you know, because you have a right for that. But also on the other side, you have mine.
So if it is a person that is a justice of the peace has been doing that for years, but they don't feel comfortable, you know, doing the wedding, it doesn't mean that he's going to harm you or he goes against you. It's because that's the person's belief and the person's feelings.
It's the same if it's you. You have your feelings. I wouldn't go against your feelings, you know. I wouldn't criticize. That's your feelings.
So if it's a person that has different feelings, why do we have to go after the law and punish the person, because it's their feeling. And again, I'm saying, you have your right and yes, you know, respect.
What about that person's rights, or what about that person's feelings? You know, everybody, we don't agree. This is a world that we don't, not everybody shares the same, not everybody likes the same color, not the same like you know, doesn't like, it's a world that you have diversity. We have different people and people have different feelings.
So I believe, my opinion, that if we all can work together, well, hey, good. And it would be better, a better world to live.
But also, this is why this is the world because we have people that have a lot of diversity, different colors, different feelings and I think that we have, in my opinion, that we have to respect each other, and if a person doesn't feel good, doesn't feel right, not because they don't like you but that's their feeling, you know, that's the way they feel.
Why would we going to punish that? Why we have to go after that person? It's also your feeling, your right, but that person's feelings and their rights.
So I think that, you know, here, as a Rep and we have to find a way how we can resolve the problem, but we also have to draw the line to imposing (inaudible) things that people don't feel comfortable. They're not hurting anybody, you know. They're not attacking anybody. They're not stealing. They're not killing, but they are feeling, and we have to know when to draw the line and how we can respect each other.
And again, I have a niece. She's a lesbian and I love her to death, and I will never allow anybody to be disrespect her, and I would never do that. Her life is her life. I don't get involved. I don't, you know, I don't say anything. No, I don't criticize her. No. That's my blood and I love her.
But she understands and I understand her feelings, her ideas, my feelings, my ideas, and I think that we have to be like that with everybody. I think it would be a better world, you know, if people learn how to respect everybody's feelings.
CAROL CONKLIN: But I think that when you're respecting someone's feelings you're not telling the justice of the peace that they can say they don't want to marry anybody else but just a group of people that are gay and lesbian.
REP. GONZALEZ: But you also will find justices of the peace that would be comfortable to do it because it's their opinion. You know, you will find judges that maybe, you know, they will do it.
You know, I think that is about people's rights, and I know you have rights. Gays and lesbians they have rights.
But also, they are other people who are not gay and lesbians they also got rights, and I think that's give and take, you know. You will find a lot of work from justice of the peace that would be willing to marry couples, gays and lesbians. I don't think that is going to be a problem.
But you also, you're going to find people they don't feel comfortable with it. That doesn't mean they're going to mistreat you or they don't like you, but they don't feel comfortable with it, you know?
And how do we go with that? Do we force the person, that we're going to force a person to do something they don't like or they don't feel comfortable with? That person is not attacking anybody. That person is not stealing. That person is not doing anything wrong but her feelings, and I think we have to respect that also.
SEN. MCDONALD: Representative Gonzalez, do you have a question?
REP. GONZALEZ: My question is, how can we force, and I've been asking the question, and I think that I got the floor and I have the same right.
And my question was from the beginning, how can we force a person that is not, that is not doing anything wrong, is not killing, is not doing anything wrong, how are we going to force that person?
SEN. MCDONALD: Would you care to answer that question?
JANET PECK: I guess we respectfully disagree and that I would just expect that any public official would be able to carry out the duties of the law.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you very much.
REP. GONZALEZ: Thank you very much and congratulations.
SEN. MCDONALD: Representative Lawlor.
REP. LAWLOR: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Good afternoon. Actually, you guys have been a couple for what, 33 years. Is that what it was?
JANET PECK: Yes.
REP. LAWLOR: And I take it you go out to restaurants and public places, a lot of things like that.
JANET PECK: Yes.
REP. LAWLOR: Did you ever have like a waiter refuse to serve you because of their religious beliefs, that they don't believe that same sex couples should be together or anything like that? Did you ever have that experience?
JANET PECK: Actually yes.
REP. LAWLOR: Tell me about that.
JANET PECK: It was a while back, but we were in a restaurant and we sat there and sat there and sat there, and we were not served, and we kept looking at each other. There was nobody else around in the restaurant. There were other people that were being served but it's not like there was a crowd, that they couldn't have time to serve us.
And finally we asked somebody, could you please, you know, serve us and wait on us and they said, I'm going on break. I'll get the next person. And the next person came and they said well, I'm not your server.
And it just was, kind of a tough thing for us, and we were sitting there going what do we leave? What do we do? And we went to the manager or the assistant manager at the time and said, you know, we've been here for, it was probably half an hour to 45 minutes and nobody is serving us. And they said, well, I'll go see about it, and went to see about it, and actually in those days, this was a while back, but they said they do not want to serve you because of who you are, because they are uncomfortable with who you are.
And we weren't holding hands or making a scene in the restaurant, so yes, actually that did happen to us.
REP. LAWLOR: And so, what's wrong with that? I mean, they have their personal views. Why should they be forced to serve you in a restaurant like that?
CAROL CONKLIN: Well, I think I should, we should be able to have the right to eat in a restaurant, in any restaurant in any place in this state and this country.
REP. LAWLOR: And that's illegal now in Connecticut since 1991 to do that kind of thing.
JANET PECK: This was after 1991, but yes.
REP. LAWLOR: Did you go to court and sue them or anything like that?
JANET PECK: No, we did not.
REP. LAWLOR: Tell all your friends not to go to that restaurant.
JANET PECK: Yeah, we did do that.
REP. LAWLOR: All right. Well, are they still in business?
JANET PECK: No, they're not.
REP. LAWLOR: There you go. Well, what goes around comes around, I guess in that respect. But thank you very much.
JANET PECK: Thank you.
SEN. MCDONALD: Are there any other questions? If not, thank you very much. Next is Peter Wolfgang, followed by Patrick Doyle.
PETER WOLFGANG: Hello members of the Committee. I'm Peter Wolfgang. I am the head of the Family Institute of Connecticut Action, and I am here today to ask you to amend Senate Bill Number 899.
You have my written testimony. It focuses on three sections of this bill that we want amended.
Section 2, which hasn't been talked about at all, which seems to export Connecticut's same sex marriage ruling to other states, which the Connecticut General Assembly I don't think has the power to do, so we think Section 2 should be struck from the bill.
Section 7, which you had a very long discussion with Dave Reynolds from the Catholic Church about earlier today, and I want to circle around back to that.
And Section 17, which you've already had some discussion about, and you know, Section 17 this is why we think this bill needs to be amended. It goes far beyond the Kerrigan ruling. This is not just a mere case of legislative housekeeping.
And you know, I would cite as evidence of that, no less an authority than Ben Klein when he was here testifying with Senator McLachlan, Klein himself said it's not required. The Kerrigan ruling does not require that Section 17 be repealed in its entirety.
In fact, his exact words were, nothing, as I wrote them down, nothing in Kerrigan mandates its removal.
You even saw a distinction between the five subsections inside the bill from Representative Lawlor when he was questioning Anne Stanback. Representative Lawlor said obviously, Subsections 4 and 5 need to be removed because they conflict with Kerrigan. That word obviously, that distinction, I think is very important.
There is no good reason why Subsections, the other subsections, of course, Subsection 4 on same sex marriage, we understand where that would conflict with Kerrigan but there's no reason why the first three subsections of that bill need to be removed.
Representative Morris talked about condone. He doesn't like that, either. He thinks perhaps that implies some intolerance of homosexuality. I would defer on that question because my time is limited to Mark Dost later this evening, in his testimony where he zeroes in on the difference between tolerance and affirmation, a conversation that I think is very germane to the use of that word condone.
But I do want to say something about Section 7. I think all the concerns raised by Dave Reynolds, and it's interesting, because on same sex marriage and related issues, many members of this Committee and certainly the Co-Chairman are on a polar opposite place than where the Catholic Church and the Family Institute are, and yet there's, I thought there was some implicit agreement, actually, in that back and forth in that, you know, Dave Reynolds' concern was that unless Section 7 is amended and strengthened, that all sorts of attacks on religious liberty will follow.
And you know, going on from there what we heard were references of the equating of any misgivings about same sex marriage to racist justices of the peace. You don't want to marry black and white people.
We heard references to the Protestant Reformation and what if a Protestant doesn't want to provide services to a confirmation.
We heard Representative Dillon's concern that the Catholic Church to her is seemingly a bunch of old men that are obsessed with gay issues.
I mean, when you can take, it's inside that sort of political milieu, that it seems to me that those sorts of attacks are going to come. The difference is, we think that's a bad thing and you're okay with it. So that's why, and you know, I doubt of my ability to persuade you otherwise.
But other members of this Committee and of the Legislature at large should understand. We're not being alarmists. All you have to do is look at the testimony from when Dave Reynolds spoke, the back and forth, this is coming down.
I think we both agree. The difference is you're okay with it because you think it's the equivalent of racism and we don't, and that's why we want this bill strengthened.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you very much, Mr. Wolfgang, and I appreciate you adhering to the time or close thereto. Let me ask you a couple of questions because I certainly had more than enough time to talk to Mr. Reynolds about Section 7, but--
PETER WOLFGANG: That's why I brought my water.
SEN. MCDONALD: He and I did not have a chance to really talk about Section 17, so I'm going to use this opportunity to talk with you about that, and to ask my questions of you regarding that.
Now, you acknowledge that Subsection 4 does need to come out in light of the Kerrigan decision, correct?
PETER WOLFGANG: Yes.
SEN. MCDONALD: Okay. What about Subsection 5, which says to establish sexual orientation as a specific and separate cultural classification in society? Does that need to come out in light of the Kerrigan decision in your opinion?
PETER WOLFGANG: I think arguably it does not. The specific language is, gosh, I have it here somewhere. The specific language, and you just read it, to establish sexual orientation as a specific and separate cultural classification in society.
I think arguably it does not need to come out. However, as I think Representative Lawlor mentioned earlier, you know, part of the holding of the Kerrigan ruling is that same sex marriage is now, it's predicated on, we're now declaring homosexual, homosexuality or sexual orientation a suspect class like race.
So in that sense, at least, sexual orientation is now a separate legal classification. The specific lesson, excuse me, the specific language of Subsection 5 is whether it's a specific and separate cultural classification.
I think arguably that's a political call, and it's within the Legislature's power to say, no, we're going to keep Subsection 5. But it's the first three subsections that really jump out at me.
Subsection 4 I wouldn't fight for, and I don't know if I would fall on my sword for Subsection 5, but it's an interesting question. I think there's an argument to be made to keep it.
SEN. MCDONALD: In your opinion, is that a convincing argument?
PETER WOLFGANG: I find it convincing. The other three subsections are far more important and I think there will be other venues. You know, it's a question if, and I should say, I have to get everything I could in my three minutes.
It's not as if we're reconciled to Kerrigan like the Catholic Church in their testimony were opposed to Kerrigan. But I think as I heard someone from your press office telling the media today that that's not what's before us today.
So as a question of venue, what's before us today is what is the language that will be entered into the law to codify, to implement the Kerrigan ruling, and I think those first three subsections, if you keep those in, that's something that goes far beyond the Kerrigan ruling.
SEN. MCDONALD: Well, to be clear, there is a part of this bill that is intended to bring our statutes into compliance with the Kerrigan ruling, but there's nothing in the Kerrigan ruling that required us to migrate civil unions over into marriages, right? And we're doing that in this bill, too, correct?
PETER WOLFGANG: Yeah.
SEN. MCDONALD: So, we can hopefully all agree that the Legislature still has the role of establishing the laws that actually do define relationships, so there's nothing that would prevent us from removing these provisions from statute if that is the collective will of this legislative body. Don't you agree?
PETER WOLFGANG: Well, the language you chose is worth a conversation in itself. That the, you know, we can all agree that the Legislature still has the rule to define relationships.
Just in 2005 this Legislature explicitly defined marriage as between a man and a women and three years later, four judges usurped that. So I don't know.
I'd like to see the Legislature have as much rule as it should in a healthy democracy and to exercise it wisely.
SEN. MCDONALD: Let me just remind you, and I'm certain you recall it, this Committee actually by democratic vote approved marriage equality in 2007. Right?
PETER WOLFGANG: Which then died in the House.
SEN. MCDONALD: But you will acknowledge--
PETER WOLFGANG: Oh, yes. It was 27 to 15. I remember.
SEN. MCDONALD: Very good. And so we can certainly acknowledge that we have the authority if it's the will of this Committee and the General Assembly as a whole to remove any of this language if we deem it appropriate and in the interests of our constituents. Right?
PETER WOLFGANG: It is within this Legislature's power to make, I mean, you're a political arm of the government to make a political decision to remove a statute that I fear the removal of which would then be read as a legislative intent by either the Commission on Human Rights or maybe some enterprising judge that there will now be a mandate to teach homosexuality in the public schools and so forth. That's our concern with the removal of those three subsections.
So yeah, do you have that power? Sure. Is it a good idea? No.
SEN. MCDONALD: Okay. So and in fact under Subsection 5 the current statute says nothing shall be deemed or construed to establish sexual orientation as a specific and separate cultural classification in society.
Isn't it in point of fact the position of the Family Institute that homosexuals are a specific and separate cultural classification that is not worthy of equal protection under the law?
PETER WOLFGANG: It is the position of the Family Institute that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. Homosexuals are entitled to the same rights as everyone else, but that right, it's a right that isn't a right. To redefine marriage is something that is for all of society, whether the issue is homosexuality or polygamy or any other sort of redefinition of marriage.
Again, I know that's not what's before us today. The question before us is, what will be the statute that implements the Kerrigan ruling, but you know, for the record, that's where we're at.
SEN. MCDONALD: Okay. And do you share Representative Morris' concerns about the use of the word condones in Subsection 1.
PETER WOLFGANG: Well, and I made a brief reference to Mark Dost, Attorney Mark Dost's testimony who you'll be hearing later today, but I think, I agree with the testimony that I read that you'll be hearing later regarding a difference between tolerance and affirmation.
I mean that's, I thought the gay rights bill from 91 struck a really nice balance in that, you know, there's going to be tolerance but we don't want this misread as some sort of affirmation, some sort of mandate that things that are opposed to parental rights, to traditional religious beliefs, will now be taught in the public schools whether parents like it or not, something that by the way is now happening in some places in Massachusetts.
SEN. MCDONALD: I guess my question is, my question to you, though was, do you agree with Representative Morris that the use of the word condones is problematic in that subsection?
PETER WOLFGANG: No, I do not. I think for him it's a question of tolerance, and I disagree on that.
SEN. MCDONALD: Okay. Do you think that homosexuals are looking for tolerance or acceptance?
PETER WOLFGANG: Well, I think they're looking to redefine marriage for all of society, which is the question that goes beyond acceptance or tolerance or affirmation.
And when I say they, I should say, you know, you're talking about homosexuals, homosexuals per se. I'm talking about those activists, homosexual, heterosexual or whatever who are in favor of same sex marriage.
SEN. MCDONALD: Well, you used the word tolerance, not me. So tolerance--
PETER WOLFGANG: Quoting Representative Morris' discussion of the word condone.
SEN. MCDONALD: Tolerance to me has an implication that one is in a position of superiority and will tolerate one who is not on the same level or of the same stature as the one who is doing the tolerating. Is that fair to say?
PETER WOLFGANG: No.
SEN. MCDONALD: What's tolerance mean to you?
PETER WOLFGANG: Tolerance to me is just one of the social goods by which a pluralistic society has a certain level of social peace. I mean, there may be all sorts of things that other people who do not share any sort of characteristics of mine tolerate in me, and I don't necessarily view their tolerance as a sign that they're somehow superior to me.
SEN. MCDONALD: Now, with respect to Subsection 2, after all of this debate and all of the time we have spent together over the years, do you still, well, do you believe that homosexuality is an unacceptable lifestyle?
PETER WOLFGANG: Homosexuality or, I mean--
SEN. MCDONALD: Well, Subsection 2 talks about the promotion of homosexuality in educational institutions or require the teaching in educational institutions of homosexuality or bisexuality as an acceptable lifestyle.
And so my question to you--
PETER WOLFGANG: Subsection 2, I'm sorry. Are you talking about Subsection 2 of the law that Section 17 would repeal?
SEN. MCDONALD: Correct. So you have said that we should retain that language. So my question to you is, do you consider homosexuality or bisexuality to be unacceptable lifestyles as a matter of public policy.
PETER WOLFGANG: What I believe is that we should not repeal a law that could then be read as a mandate to teach homosexuality or bisexuality as an acceptable lifestyle in educational institutions.
My concern is that doing so would lead to something that could be read as a legislative intent for a mandate. So that's, my concern is about society not my own personal views about homosexuality, but that society in the aggregate, that some of what we've seen in schools in Massachusetts will happen in Connecticut that the process will be set up so that children will be taught things that are against their parents' beliefs and parents will have no say about that regarding homosexuality.
If parents, just essentially that parents' religious beliefs should be respected, and their parental rights, and that removing Subsection 2 would make it less likely that that will be respected.
SEN. MCDONALD: Okay. But my question to you, either in your personal capacity or in your representative capacity, can you answer the question, is homosexuality or bisexuality an unacceptable lifestyle? Yes or no?
PETER WOLFGANG: Well, here's the problem I have with that question. It's interesting. You say in all the years we've been together this is actually the first time that I've ever been hit with that question. I've heard that question come up a lot in the previous hearings over the years. Representative Lawlor has been hit with it. My predecessor as head of the Family Institute was probably hit with when he sat in this seat.
I, this is the first time I've ever been hit with the question, and the problem I have with that question is, I mean, you know who I am. You know who our organization is. We're the lead organization in opposition to same sex marriage, where this issue is concerned.
And when you ask this question of me, and when you ask it of other people who are opposed to same sex marriage, and of course, many people who are opposed to same sex marriage are opposed to it out of their traditional religious beliefs that homosexual activity, as opposed to you use the word homosexuality, homosexual activity is that the actual homosexual acts are something that's unacceptable or against their religious beliefs.
But it seems to me when that question is asked that what you're getting at is motivation. You're saying, oh, well, you know, you can talk about marriages between a man and a woman or for the good of society, but you know, it really comes down to the fact that you know, you're opposed to homosexual activity, which I know for those of you on your side of this issue is viewed as something as bigotry.
To me, that would be the equivalent of my making an issue out of the fact that both of you are practicing homosexuals. If I were to make an issue out of that, that would be, it would be wrong, because it would be making an issue out of your motivation.
I would be saying, well it's not really that they're concerned about equality or that they're concerned about civil rights. It's that they're homosexuals so they're using their position to push their own agenda, and I think it would be wrong for me to say that to you, just as I've always felt it was wrong that you guys always jump to that and try to plant that suggestion that, you know, well, it's just, because I know for folks on your side of the issue, well that's the moral equivalent of racism.
So, you know, I have the traditional beliefs of my faith and of many other traditional religions, but that's what I've always thought, and I've never got in that question, but since you asked, that's what I think of it.
SEN. MCDONALD: Okay. I asked for a yes or a no answer. You're, I'm not--
PETER WOLFGANG: That's the same belief. I'm a practicing Catholic. I believe what the Catholic catechism teaches.
SEN. MCDONALD: Okay. So the Catholic catechism teaches that homosexuality is inherently evil and objectively disordered. Right?
PETER WOLFGANG: No. It doesn't. It does speak against homosexual acts. On the question of sexual orientation, it does not call it inherently evil. It makes a distinction.
Again, I know these distinctions are lost on those who disagree with us on these issues, and it's very far afield of the question that's before us today, which is, what's the proper implementing of the Kerrigan ruling.
When my friend on my side of the aisle, Dave Reynolds was here, we got into discussions ranging from the Iraq war to the Protestant Reformation, the Holocaust denial, and you know, that's why I'm leery to get into these questions of, well, what's your personal beliefs about homosexuality and so forth.
Whatever my beliefs, I think that Section 7 needs to be revised. Section 17 needs to be revised and Section 2 needs to be struck.
SEN. MCDONALD: So you're, I mean, I'm just trying to get an understanding of why you believe that Subsection 2, which seems to preclude, seems to preclude the construction of any of our non-discrimination statutes as constituting or condoning homosexuality or bisexuality as an acceptable lifestyle.
You seem very defensive that you want that to remain in our statutes, and if you're that adamant that it needs to remain, to make sure that we don't have our laws construed as allowing homosexuality to be deemed as an acceptable lifestyle, I'm trying to figure out why that's such an important component of this law for you?
PETER WOLFGANG: Two examples from Massachusetts. There was the case of David Parker, evangelical father of a five-year-old boy in the boy's kindergarten class in the public school. He was being taught out of a book that promoted homosexuality.
Parker objected to that. He had a back and forth exchange with school officials and I mean, eventually the man was arrested and spent the night in prison because he just didn't want his son taught out of that book.
Another couple in Massachusetts, a similar situation to work with. Their child was second or third grade, and they filed a lawsuit trying to prevent similar materials from being taught.
The judge threw out the lawsuit saying that because Massachusetts now recognizes same sex marriage, the state has a rational interest in fostering its acceptance. And, you know, that's what I object to, that parents are going to be, that children are going to be taught this against the will of the parents, and that's why I think Subsection 2 should stay in there because of Ben Klein notwithstanding, I think it provides some bull work against that or at least against something that could then, if it's repealed read as a mandate to mean its opposite, that this will be taught.
SEN. MCDONALD: Do you disagree with the majority opinion in Kerrigan where it indicates that the section that we're just talking about, 46a-81r is a kind of state sponsored disapproval of same sex relationships?
PETER WOLFGANG: You know, I read the decision last October when it came out, so I'd have to go back and look at what the language says.
Your question is, is it a state sponsored disapproval? I don't know. It could be read that way. I know that the specific language of the statute says that you know, that there's nothing in the gay rights bill from 91 will be taught to promote homosexuality in educational institutions as an acceptable lifestyle.
And so I know that's it at least a disapproval of that, of the actual black leather language of the bill. Whether it's a disapproval of wider things, I don't know. We can have a discussion about it.
But for the purpose of implementing this bill, what I'm asking is that this Subsection 2 stay in there.
SEN. MCDONALD: And do you disagree with the majority of the Kerrigan Court that said that that same section of the General Statutes serves to undermine the legitimacy of homosexual relationships?
PETER WOLFGANG: Well, you know, I understand that the Kerrigan majority opinion didn't like the language of this, of this statute, but there's, I mean, there's (inaudible) on the decision saying, we don't like the language. We think it's demeaning. We think that our state disapproval of same sex relationships.
But the whole thing as opposed to the, you know commentary and in the actual holding, as I think even Representative Lawlor implied when he was questioning Anne Stanback is that, obviously Subsection 4 needs to go, but so much hinges on that word obviously that he used with Anne, that even though the majority expressed disapproval as even Ben Klein said, it's not required that this thing be struck in its entirety.
Nothing in Kerrigan mandates removal. That was Ben Klein's words, and on that, at least if nothing else, I agree with him.
SEN. MCDONALD: And my final question for you, Mr. Wolfgang is, immediately preceding you, Janet Peck and Carol Conklin testified before the Committee that they had been in a relationship for 33 years.
Is it your opinion that that relationship is not worthy of the approval and respect of the State of Connecticut?
PETER WOLFGANG: It's my opinion, is it my opinion that it's not worthy of the approval or respect? It's my opinion that they deserve the same rights that everyone else in society should have, but this is, you know, the same argument we've had for a very long time, that to you, those rights include same sex marriage, and to me that's not a right. That's a redefinition of marriage, something that's a social good for all of society.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you very much. Representative Lawlor.
REP. LAWLOR: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Just to clarify it. We have the advantage of computers up here and we can do Google searches quickly, and I just, on the question of intrinsically disordered, et cetera, the most recent quote from the Pope is, I think he refers to homosexuality, and he said, the tendency toward an intrinsic moral evil, which is homosexuality, and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder. So that's the direct quote. That's the most recent statement on that topic.
But having said that--
PETER WOLFGANG: I can get you some of his encyclicals if you want.
REP. LAWLOR: I understand.
PETER WOLFGANG: Fascinating reading. I'm sorry, go on.
REP. LAWLOR: I read for the most part, I'm just picking out the most recent quote, I thought to kind of get to the heart of it. It seems like he makes a distinction between what you characterize as the behavior or being
a practicing homosexual, I think was your word versus people who just happen to be gay as it turns out.
But having said that--
PETER WOLFGANG: Well, he, you used the word tendency, but I'm sorry, go on, again, far afield.
REP. LAWLOR: I quoted the word tendency. I didn't use it.
PETER WOLFGANG: Right. You quoted it. That's what, I think that's great. That's an important distinction, tendency towards an intrinsic. He's making a distinction between homosexual and homosexual activity.
REP. LAWLOR: But he said, thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder. I think that's a little different from the act itself, I guess. But I'm just saying.
You, at the outset you recommended some amendments to the bill. Is that correct? Did I understand your testimony correctly?
PETER WOLFGANG: Well, I recommend the amendment to seven, to Section 7 that Dave Reynolds does not yet have for you.
REP. LAWLOR: Okay. Did you bring it with you?
PETER WOLFGANG: No, I did not. I discussed it with our friends in the Catholic Church ahead of time, and I know that typically what happens is, we have this hearing, and then at some point down the line the vote takes place, so we don't have the amendment, but we will.
REP. LAWLOR: I just thought it would be useful to, it seems like you spend a lot of time thinking about this issue. I thought it useful if you had the language we could talk about it today, but.
You know, the other thing is, I think I got an email from you, but I certainly read it saying something about the sort of anti-democratic nature of this whole process, and would you at least concede that what we're doing right now is a legitimate process by a democratically elected Legislature?
PETER WOLFGANG: Yes. And you know, as a matter of fact, that goes to something that Senator Kissel discussed in his back and forth with Dave Reynolds. I'm so glad you brought that up.
Yes, this conversation that we're having right now is part of the legitimate democratic process. It was very interesting when Senator Kissel was questioning Dave Reynolds, that he was saying look, you know, you fought against same sex marriage. I was with you. Well thought, but goodness gracious, you know, the Kerrigan ruling's come down and here's where, I held your hand up until now, but now the road forks and we part company.
And I would only cite as an example, I would say that what's happened in Kerrigan was not a legitimate exercise of a democratic republic, but the conversation that we're having right now.
I would cite as an example the Roe v. Wade decision on the national level, you know, regardless of where you sand on Roe v. Wade, if you're for it, if you're against it, after Roe v. Wade was handed down in 1973, that was hardly the end of the matter for the Legislative Branch.
It was hardly a case of okay, we opposed abortion but now it's the law of the land so that's the end of the matter.
There was the Hyde amendment, which said that we're not going to provide federal tax dollars for abortion.
There was, you know, religious liberties, the Catholic hospitals in this state despite Roe are not required to provide abortions and so forth.
The fact is, even though the Kerrigan ruling, like Roe v. Wade, there was still more work to be done. There was the Hyde amendment. It was up to the legislative body to define what the limits of this court ruling is until some other court ruling perhaps hopefully comes along.
But in regard to the Kerrigan decision, even though the Kerrigan decision has come along, this is hardly the end of the matter.
Section 7, and of course, you know as I said, we're not reconciled to Kerrigan itself, but we're, that bedrock issue we'll take up again on another day.
Regarding the actual implementing of Kerrigan, the statute that's before us, Senate Bill Number 899, Section 7, you know, these are things, religious liberty, whether all or only part of Section 81r is going to be struck. I mean, this is your job in the same way that the Hyde amendment after Roe v. Wade was the job of the Congress.
So yes, this is definitely a legitimate democratic function, and my hope is that you will exercise it in a way that causes the least possible disruption to traditional religious liberty and parental rights in our state.
REP. LAWLOR: And you said and repeated here again today, that the fact that the Court has issued a decision in a case like this is in and of itself an undemocratic exercise. Is that basically your point of view on that topic?
PETER WOLFGANG: Yes.
REP. LAWLOR: Okay. So what do you think is the role of a State Supreme Court or the United States Supreme Court? What is their job?
PETER WOLFGANG: It is to interpret the Constitution, and there is nothing in the State Constitution that says there shall be same sex marriage.
I strongly concur with, concur, I mean I'm not one of the justices, but I'm in strong agreement with Justice Zarrella's dissent.
REP. LAWLOR: Is there anything--
PETER WOLFGANG: Particularly the footnote 15, which was about Family Institute.
REP. LAWLOR: Is there anything in the United States Constitution about marriage one way or the other?
PETER WOLFGANG: Is there anything in the, well, there's, what is it that (inaudible) the Court rulings that (inaudible).
REP. LAWLOR: I'm talking about the actual text, because you said there's nothing in the State Constitution regarding same sex marriage. There's nothing in there about marriage, either.
But I'm asking you, is there anything in the United States Constitution on the topic of marriage itself. Does the word marriage appear in there anywhere?
PETER WOLFGANG: I haven't sat down and read the U.S. Constitution in its entirety in a while, so I don't know.
REP. LAWLOR: Well, I have. I can represent that there's not a mention of the word marriage in there. So, I guess, the reason I'm asking you that question is because you know, so if there's a conflict between well, do you think that if the State Legislature passes a law, no matter what the law says, it should be respected, and do you think it's possible for that law to be unconstitutional?
PETER WOLFGANG: I think the issue before us today is, what is the proper language that should go into Senate Bill Number 899 to implement the Kerrigan ruling, and not the illegitimacy that I and so many others see in the Kerrigan ruling.
I'm concerned, again, and I mean it's cool we're still close to the main subject. We're not off in the Protestant Reformation and stuff yet, but I want to stick to the issue itself, which is that, this bill needs to be amended.
REP. LAWLOR: Okay. But you, yourself testified, I think in your actual opening statement you referred to the State Supreme Court decision and it was undemocratic and therefore, you know, deserving less than the full respect, I guess, I don't know.
But what, I mean, do you think that it's an improper role for the Court to decide about who's entitled to be married and who's not, or is that just something that the Court should not get into at all, no matter what?
PETER WOLFGANG: Does it matter what I think right now? I mean, right now we've got Senate Bill Number 899 before us, and the question is, how should it be implemented, and regardless of what I think the Court's role is or whether it's overstepped its, I mean, what we've got before us is how should Senate Bill Number 899 be revised.
REP. LAWLOR: Well, all right. Well, if you're not going to answer my question. I'd like to read you a law that was validly adopted in the State of Virginia in 1960 and it says “intermarriage prohibited, meaning of term white persons. It shall hereafter be unlawful for any white person in this state to marry any save a white person, or a person with no other mixture of blood than white and American Indian.
For the purpose of this chapter the term white person shall apply only to such person as has no trace whatever of any blood other than Caucasian, but persons who have 1/16th or less blood of an American Indian have no other non-Caucasian blood shall be deemed to be white persons.
All laws heretofore passed are now in effect regarding the intermarriage of white and colored persons shall apply to marriages prohibited by this chapter. Colored persons and Indians defined every person in whom there is ascertainable any Negro blood shall be deemed and taken to be a colored person, and every person not a colored person having one-fourth or more American Indian blood, shall be deemed an American Indian, except that members of Indian Tribes existing in this Commonwealth having one-fourth or more of Indian blood and less than 1/16th of Negro blood shall be deemed Trial Indians.”
And violating that statute is a felony in the State of Virginia, and two people by the name of Loving were arrested for violating that statute and they claimed that that was unconstitutional, so do you think the United States Supreme Court has the right to tell the State of Virginia that they can't prohibit interracial marriage like that?
PETER WOLFGANG: Well, these examples are fascinating because they get to the point of what I've been saying.
To you, this is the equivalent of rights. Those of us who are opposed to same sex marriage, we're the moral equivalent of racists and perhaps before all is said and done, we may yet be turned into the legal equivalent of racists.
That's why Subsection 7, I mean, how do we treat racists? Well, you know, we take away their tax exempt status. I mean, there are things that you know, if you're the legal definition of a racist, there are legal consequences for you, Bob Jones University and so forth.
If you're making out, those of us who understand marriage to be what it has always been in all of society, and this is what Maggie Gallagher was getting at in her testimony here two years ago. It's a very big idea. It's going to have tremendous consequences that go far beyond same sex marriage or any sort of academic back and forth that you and I have about the role of the courts.
This is a very, very big thing going on here and it's very important that, and I'm sorry we don't have the amendment language yet, but Section 7 needs to be strengthened.
REP. LAWLOR: Well, I'm only saying, you're the one who said the Court has no right doing this kind of thing, and I'm just asking you, do you think the Supreme Court has the right to declare that Virginia statute unconstitutional?
PETER WOLFGANG: I think the relevance is, you know, we have Senate Bill Number 899 before us, and how should that be reformed or amended, and whichever way you and I agree or disagree about it is unrelated to what I think of the Court's roles.
REP. LAWLOR: Okay. But having said that, do you think the courts have the right to overrule state statutes, and in particular, if you were on the Supreme Court, would you have voted to declare that statute unconstitutional or not?
PETER WOLFGANG: I would, I know if I were a Legislator I would vote against that statute. If I were on the Court, I don't know. I haven't read the Loving, is it the Loving decision that you're talking about.
REP. LAWLOR: Loving v (inaudible)
PETER WOLFGANG: I haven't read it, you know, in a very long time, but you know, in general if you're asking, yeah, I'm opposed to racism. I mean, it's kind of, you know, kind of obvious, it's kind of a given.
But, you know, the specifics of the Court and what the Court's proper role is and all that, I think is far afield from the question of how shall Senate Bill Number 899 be revised.
REP. LAWLOR: Yeah, well for you, maybe. Not for me.
SEN. MCDONALD: Senator Gomes was next.
SEN. GOMES: Good afternoon. Family Institute. Who was your predecessor, I keep hearing named predecessor. Was it Mr. Brown?
PETER WOLFGANG: It sure was.
SEN. GOMES: My friend.
PETER WOLFGANG: Brian sends his best.
SEN. GOMES: Yeah. I've got something to send him, too. We'll talk about that later.
I hear you said, I heard him ask you about whether homosexuality was thought of by the Family Institute or yourself as being evil and then they came across with what the Pope had said about a tendency toward intrinsic moral evil.
You said your personal beliefs are based on the Catholic catechism. Am I right on that?
PETER WOLFGANG: Well, I was invited to discuss my personal beliefs but if you paid close attention to what I said up to that point, I'm making arguments that ought to be accessible to anyone regardless of their personal beliefs.
SEN. GOMES: Then you're saying that your personal beliefs are not, you can be objective when it comes to the term of homosexuals, and that your personal beliefs would not lead you down the path of being rigid and not objective?
PETER WOLFGANG: I believe that I am objective, yes, if that's what you're asking me.
SEN. GOMES: All right.
PETER WOLFGANG: Out of charity, that's something that you try to assign to those with whom you disagree, and you know, to raise the issue of whether you're not, like I said in my discussion with the Co-Chairman. It would be like saying to the two of them, well, you're homosexual so are you sure you can be objective on same sex marriage. I just, I disagree with it.
SEN. GOMES: Well, I, it's an honest question. I mean, I haven't said you're not objective. I said, could you be objective?
When you talk about homosexuality, if you were to give, I mean, a lot of people couldn't wrap up their belief about something in one word. If you were to, if somebody were to ask you a one word description of what you believe about homosexuality, what would that word be?
PETER WOLFGANG: I don't really give homosexuality a lot of thought, to tell you the truth. I mean, it's, you know, in regard to same sex marriage, I give the proper definition of marriage a lot of thought.
This may be, I know again, I come back to Representative Dillon's concern that the Catholic Church is a bunch of old men obsessing over gay stuff. The truth is, we don't really give it a lot of thought, but it comes up a lot, so it becomes necessary for us to talk about it.
So when we do, you know, I don't know, like what my one word about homosexuality would be. I'll get back to you on that.
SEN. GOMES: That's very strange. You're here testifying on a homosexual marriage, homosexuals being married and you say you don't give homosexuality a thought.
PETER WOLFGANG: I said I don't give it a lot of thought.
SEN. GOMES: That's very strange.
PETER WOLFGANG: I give the topic of marriage a lot of though. Again, if same sex marriage was not on the radar, if instead there was a very strong political movement to redefine marriage to allow polygamy, I'd be here fighting that just as hard.
It's not about homosexuality, it's about marriage. But again, today it's not specifically about marriage or same sex marriage. It's about what is the language for Senate Bill Number 899. How will it be properly implemented, the Kerrigan ruling?
SEN. GOMES: Then you're saying what you are testifying about and you said marriage, it's what you believe a marriage to be. Polygamy is not marriage. Two homosexuals being joined in marriage is not a marriage? It's just what you believe to be marriage.
PETER WOLFGANG: I don't think it's just me.
SEN. GOMES: Well--
PETER WOLFGANG: I would say that it's, you know, it's most of human civilization and history and cultures across time and place and religion and so forth. So I don't think that marriages between a man and woman is just some little idiosyncratic view of mine.
But again, I mean, the Kerrigan ruling happened. There may be other opportunities to say something specifically about that.
What's before us today is what will be the proper language of Senate Bill Number 899 by which it will be implemented.
SEN. GOMES: I'm not interested in what everybody believes. I'm just trying to get my arms around you, here, testifying today and what you believe, and I'm asking you. I asked you what your description of homosexuality if you would give a one word description and you said, you don't give a thought about homosexuality.
PETER WOLFGANG: No, I said I don't give a lot of thought.
SEN. GOMES: A lot of thought. But you're here testifying on a subject that involves specifically, homosexuals joining together in marriage.
PETER WOLFGANG: As I already said to the Co-Chairman, my beliefs are those of the Catholic Church.
SEN. GOMES: And that is what the Family Institute is based on, right?
PETER WOLFGANG: No. Family Institute is non-sectarian, ecumenical. We're actually loosely affiliated, associated with, focused on the family, which is not Catholic.
SEN. GOMES: Loosely focused on a family.
PETER WOLFGANG: I'll try again. We're loosely affiliated, associated with focus on the family. Associated.
SEN. GOMES: I'm going to stop right here because you're confusing the hell out of me.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you, Senator Gomes. Representative Holder-Winfield followed by Representative Dillon.
REP. HOLDER-WINFIELD: Good afternoon. I want to go back to David Parker, because I do go back and read transcripts and it's important because it helps me to sometimes put into context what I sat through, and it seemed to me that you testified that David Parker was a parent who was at a school where there was a book that they were teaching from that talked about homosexuality.
PETER WOLFGANG: Yes.
REP. HOLDER-WINFIELD: And that he was arrested for basically protesting that. Is that correct?
PETER WOLFGANG: Well, he had an email and phone conversation back and forth with school officials that went on for the better part of a year, fruitless. All he asked for was a guarantee to know ahead of time when the book is taught, so that he could opt out his child. That's all he asked for.
They wouldn't give him that. Eventually, he went down to the school and said, I'm not leaving until you give me that guarantee. Instead of doing so, they had him arrested and he spent the night in prison.
REP. HOLDER-WINFIELD: So, first of all, my understanding was that they weren't actually teaching from the book and that the book was a book that talked about more than homosexuality. It talked about all kinds of relationships, single parent, divorces and all those types of things.
And the other thing was, I understand that the book that they weren't teaching from was part of a diversity book bag, and that you are correct, that they had this ongoing discussion.
So he wasn't, in my understanding, he wasn't actually arrested simply because he protested. He was arrested because he refused to leave until he got what he wanted, so he was actually harassing the school officials. Is that not correct?
PETER WOLFGANG: Well, you know, he asked for something simple. It went on for about a year. It was his own five-year-old son, so you know, eventually he went down and said, you tell me this or I'm not leaving. I think a lot of fathers of five-year-old boys could understand.
REP. HOLDER-WINFIELD: Is that a yes?
PETER WOLFGANG: No, I object to the word harassing.
REP. HOLDER-WINFIELD: Thank you.
SEN. MCDONALD: Representative Dillon, followed by Representative Morris.
REP. DILLON: Hello, Peter, or Mr. Wolfgang, how are you doing? I just wanted to straighten out a little bit, since you've quoted me twice, and it's my own fault that I did that rant.
I was quoting a group of 20-year-olds when I was questioning them about their religious observance, and the reaction, and I stated it, so I suppose it's got my name next it. The reaction was, what's up with their thing about gays. It's somebody else's life. Why is that all they care about, quote, unquote, and then came the old men thing, which I assume, you know.
But it's quite true. I mean, I do worry about the loss of a very rich tradition, which is much richer than one would think by picking the paper up where it all seems to be about folks' identity and about gays.
It's very, I don't know that in a vacuum, I don't particularly have an issue with anyone having a particular belief.
What I'm troubled about in terms of the presentation is, the point at which the issue of conscience turns into one of coercion of others' behavior, and I guess I'm concerned about the loss of a tradition, which nourished me, and it's being reduced to just one or two issues.
And I understand from a political science point of view that every institution is going to test its authority at the margins. But I think the point has been made, and I guess on the issue of Kerrigan, I guess I would refer you to Justice Scalia, whose dissent in the Lawrence Texas case basically predicted if the Supreme Court basically said that sodomy between consenting adults was okay, then gay marriage would have to follow inevitably as a matter of law.
This was foreseeable and it happened at the national level, I don't know that anyone needs to ventilate too much about what happens in Connecticut or Massachusetts to a certain extent if they look at the precedent in the Supreme Court and that something that was foreseeable and predicted by Justice Scalia, they're really applying the laws. It's logical to follow that.
But having said that, I just wanted to make it clear that I certainly have no problems with old men, or old women for that matter. I do think that there's a lack of proportionality and emphasis here, and I just, I'm just so proud of our tradition and I just don't like to see it reduced to something.
And I agree with Maggie Gallagher, except that I go in the other direction. I mean, I went downstairs and sat with her in the cafeteria--
PETER WOLFGANG: I remember.
REP. DILLON: --after she spoke that night. I agree this is a very big idea. But I think some of the stuff that you guys do is a very big idea too and it can have implications.
I don't want to go into court and have someone say that I came through it because I was baptized as a Catholic. I don't, you don't really know once you put that weapon in play what's going to happen when somebody picks it up, and I don't want, I don't like to see it input, implied anywhere in law necessarily. I don't know where it's going to go ten years from now, and on that we have to respectfully disagree.
Since you quoted me twice, though, I assume I got your goat and I'm sorry about that because I like you, and I think we've had some very respectful conversations about things we do have in common. So I certainly don't want it to end on that, but I do disagree with the emphasis very much, and I am still very upset with the Vatican's reconciliation with the Holocaust denial.
I mean, I can't let that go. That is very, very embarrassing to me. It's not your fault. It's not Mr. Reynolds' fault. It's something that's a scandal to me and it makes me worry about their judgment.
PETER WOLFGANG: Pat, thank you, excuse me, Representative Dillon, thank you for your comments. I always find them very, very interesting.
And you know, I agree with you. There's so many places where you and I agree and of course, a few big ones where we don't. But it's true, isn't it Representative Dillon, that our faith is so much bigger than same sex marriage and abortion, the two really big issues that pop up and that of course, you know, I'm not an official representative of the Catholic Church.
I'm a layman for an independent organization, but I just want to second your point, of course. Those are the two big issues that I'm heavily involved in, but our faith is, my goodness, architecture, art, science, literature, I mean, 2000 years of an incredible tradition.
And I would only say in response, that I do, I think it's a little unfair to say that the Catholic Church is you know, that these are the only issues, like this is the focus, this is the emphasis. These are the issues that the media will pay attention to. But I think, you know, the Catholic Church is here on a whole variety of issues.
You know, it was interesting during the whole constitutional convention thing last year, you know. We were part of a, we wanted a yes vote. We were part of a coalition of a whole bunch of groups, taxpayers and people like that, and the media seemed to only want to talk to me, and I asked a reporter in one of the most prestigious media outlets afterwards, like why is just me? Why is it? She said, your issue is sexier.
And I think there's, you know, regardless of where people stand on this issue, I think there is kind of a tendency, and I don't mean to downplay the importance of this, it's hugely significant, that's why I'm here today, but I guess I'm responding specifically to your comments regarding the Church.
REP. DILLON: Well, absolutely, and I really, I was traveling in the south. My own family and my husband have roots in the south. I was down there when they were just isolating the AIDS virus, and the hysteria among some of the fundamentalist communities in Georgia, there was nobody who was willing to step forth and help people with AIDS except the Catholic Church.
PETER WOLFGANG: I remember.
REP. DILLON: Now, in Connecticut, people wouldn't like the position they chose because they said, hate the sin, love the sinner. But at that point in Georgia, that looked pretty good because the other position was, they deserve it, you know.
And Cardinal O'Connor, for all the things, and I have a poster of him, not a poster, I have a picture of him in my office, but, saying that God was a man. There were times that he had a mouth, but I do, too. That's fine.
His notion of service to the community, those people with AIDS, there's a whole richness there in terms of our ministry that is bigger. That's all I wanted to say, and we agree on that.
PETER WOLFGANG: Thank you.
SEN. MCDONALD: Representative Morris, followed by Representative Hamm.
REP. MORRIS: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. We're getting into good evening, now.
PETER WOLFGANG: I'm up to my second bottle of water, so I'm good.
REP. MORRIS: My question is basically also to clarify a statement that I made earlier, and I didn't hear you clarify this one piece. It's Section 1, Subsection 1 of the bill, where nothing shall be deemed or construed to mean that the State of Connecticut condones homosexuality or bisexuality or any equivalent lifestyle, and I said, I've got problems with that word, condones.
PETER WOLFGANG: I understand.
REP. MORRIS: I think Anne Stanback said here earlier, you know, words are important. And I would like to hear your piece on (inaudible) condones versus affirms, you know. I think you referred to someone else, but I'd like to hear your piece, just so I can clarify where I'm at.
When I say that, I always believe that the state's role basically is neither to endorse nor reject, you know, but to protect, you know, the basic human rights of all citizens regardless of their race, their glass or their gender, all right?
So I think our role is more of a protection side, for the good of society, and in order to do that, in order to balance the kind of rights that we were talking about today, the state can't take a position that I'm endorsing one over another, or rejecting one in favor of another, all right?
So that's the context in which I put that, and when I kind of see the word, condones, it's a little lighthearted. So, when you finish what you're going to share with me, I'm just wondering, because we do have the opportunity now, while we're looking at this bill, if this word also appears to be troublesome, would you be opposed to that word being replaced with one, which I kind of thought about.
You know, we're talking about promoting, because now we're doing more to endorse. If the word was actually nothing to the mean that the State of Connecticut will promote homosexuality or bisexuality because we don't promote any other thing. We protect.
PETER WOLFGANG: I'm looking at the language right now, condone. The word promote thing comes up again in Subsection 2, doesn't it?
REP. MORRIS: Right. So if you're in favor of keeping Subsection 2 and it kinds of go in line with Subsection 1, that's the difference, whether we're actually, we're the active force to promote something.
PETER WOLFGANG: I'd like to consider that further and talk to you about that more. That's an interesting suggestion you've made.
You know, and it reminds me. I understand what you're saying, Representative Morris, in terms of clarifying your position.
When we had the same sex marriage hearing here with this Committee two years ago, I remember you at the time, we had civil union on the books, and the question was, would it be replaced with same sex marriage.
You made a really interesting argument that you felt that, and it's not the Family Institute's argument. It's not our position, but it was a really sort of novel approach that civil unions was somehow, that same sex marriage would actually be demeaning of same sex couples in a way that civil unions wouldn't, that same sex couples are different in that to have this other thing. Civil unions is actually a way of honoring that difference, and that's not the Family Institute's argument, you know.
But it was a very, you know, always very interesting thought, so I understand what you're saying.
REP. MORRIS: But I still think you didn't answer the question in terms of clarifying for us at least your position in terms of affirmation, tolerance, that whole piece.
Do you have a distinction in your mind as to the use of either those two words or concepts?
PETER WOLFGANG: Well, you know, I think tolerance is something that we all ought to extend to one another and Senator McDonald notwithstanding, I don't think it necessarily means that if someone's tolerating me that they have a superior social or cultural status to me.
Whereas, when we, you know, when we affirm or we promote something, that's of a different nature than tolerance. That's something that, I'm trying to think of an example, that that's something different than merely promoting social peace and you know, some base line of proper behavior amongst one another.
REP. MORRIS: Okay. And again, my rationalization for going through this with you, Peter, is because we have the opportunity, while we're going through this democratic process, for all sides to hear one another, and so when I hear the other side saying is that a, you know, they have a problem with that piece of it.
So if it's just a matter of a word tweak and the concept that we understand, we can move forward with the concept, let's just do the word tweak rather than having a word that is vague.
Because it sounds like, just listening to everybody, we all have a different interpretation or sense of what that word can mean for us.
The final piece, and it kind of goes to I guess a lot of the questions that you were given about your personal faith, where you are, and religious liberty to a great degree today has been discussed, right?
And certainly, we have many individuals that come before us. We talk about the subjects who are gay, and we get to hear, you know, how they feel, their paths that they've gone through where they've been ridiculed, demoralized, treated in a subject of bigotry, undeniably subject to bigotry.
Let me ask you, as you're going through this journey fighting for the rights of those persons of faith, how do you feel going through this process? Do you feel that people are kind of being bigoted toward you and your faith?
Do you feel that sometimes people are treating you hostile? I think the Legislature needs to hear that.
PETER WOLFGANG: You should see my in box. The stuff that comes, I mean, you know, the cultural milieu here in the mainstream media, which I know many people who share my views consider it biased toward the last liberal.
You know, there's the sense in pop culture and in the media that those of us who oppose same sex marriage well, we're the haters, we're the bigots, and you know, I don't want to generalize entirely when speaking about those who are opposite of my position on this issue.
But I mean, we keep a file of hate mail that would just make your hair stand on end, some of the emails that we get. There's something happening, well, no, I won't even get into that.
But some of the stuff is already a part of the public record. Dr. Marie Hilliard, who used to be the head of the Connecticut Catholic Conference was, someone was arrested for making a death threat against her during the debate over the civil union bill in 2005. I think Channel 3 was the only media outlet that covered it.
Around that time, Family Institute, we made up these big banners that said defend marriage now, and several of the churches that are pro family that share our views displayed these banners around the state. They were torn down in the dead of night. They were vandalized. They were stolen.
You know, we don't normally, we try to make arguments based on you know, this is what we believe in terms of, you know, reason and what's in the best interest of society.
We don't normally, well, we don't normally get into these sorts of things but my goodness, I could write a book on some of the really strange things that have come from some, not all, but some on the other side and it really would turn around the whole question of, you know, where the hate's coming from.
REP. MORRIS: I know I'm very thankful, and I'm sure you are for the very civil debate that we have here in the State of Connecticut as opposed to what we saw at the Proposition 8 went through its series in California and where a lot of faith institutions were--
PETER WOLFGANG: I talked specifically about myself and Family Institute in the State of Connecticut, Marie Hilliard, but you're right.
Regarding Prop 8, there's stuff that's been done against the supporters of Prop 8 in California that really again, sort of turns on its whole head, this question of who's being intolerant and who's acting out of hate.
And again, I don't want to paint with a broad brush. I know actually there were some national gay rights organizations that spoke against that as well, but there really were some really just incredible, unbelievable incidents.
REP. MORRIS: Do you have any information or reports or anything that could help us to comprehend all, how these kinds of decisions have had impact on religious liberties, if at all?
PETER WOLFGANG: I can, and this probably will be part of the process of the amendment that the Catholic Church will submit to you. I can put together a report. You know, some of these, I think Senator McDonald spoke of it in terms of, you know, of rhetoric that has power.
I mean, there's actual, you know, beyond rhetoric, these are actual concrete examples that happened. Some of them have been discussed together. We could put together some sort of report for you, yes.
REP. MORRIS: I thank you very much for your testimony. If anything, one last question, though.
Are you Catholic?
PETER WOLFGANG: I am.
REP. MORRIS: Okay.
PETER WOLFGANG: I should emphasize, too, I mean, our membership is, maybe only about half of it is Catholic. We speak for people of all faiths who share our beliefs and we've, I personally have developed a great love in my heart for all the evangelical Protestants and others, Mormons and so forth that have been a part of our movement.
REP. MORRIS: Okay. You're going the way I want to go. You share that great commonality of all those who share your belief. How about those people of other faiths who don't share your beliefs?
PETER WOLFGANG: I try to love everyone.
REP. MORRIS: Okay. All right. Well, that was important. It was important to hear because I think it's part of this discussion, you know. I think one of the biggest challenges, one of the challenges that we have is a lack of sensitivity to others' beliefs.
PETER WOLFGANG: For what it's worth, and you know, I tried to stay away from this when Representative, I think, one of the Co-Chairmen were asking me about my personal beliefs.
But I think I'm probably the only conservative in my family. I mean, not my own family, my wife and my children, but my family of origin, my parents, my brothers, you know.
And not to take anything away from anyone, but I know we've all, we've heard the stories from the folks on the other side about the pain, you know that they experience when they come out as gay or homosexual to their families and so forth, try being the only Republican in my family. I could tell you some stories, but, sometimes they still speak to me.
REP. MORRIS: All right. Let me pursue this just a little bit further. In terms of religious liberty then, and for those who are of a different position, because this is an opportunity for us to look at these things.
Let me take a faith that takes a totally different position than FIC. We were talking about earlier, the Episcopal Church, which we know, you know, had its schism around this whole issue of same sex marriage, okay?
Would you agree that even though they take a different position than you, you know, not all of them, but you know, as a church they take a different position that in terms of religious liberty, you'd be prepared to come here and fight for their liberty to believe what they believe just as hard as you believe what you believe.
PETER WOLFGANG: Yes, absolutely. We're about religious liberty.
REP. MORRIS: Thank you. Well, could you really expound upon that, because I think we need to hear that. What I kind of sense that I hear, well, you know, FIC is just here and this is what they believe and they're only fighting for what they believe on their side, and this is a, this state's position against a gay rights position as opposed to what Senator McDonald was talking about earlier.
What's the real issue of making certain that we are also protecting the real religious liberties, even when those liberties do not agree with you, and it's divergent.
PETER WOLFGANG: Naturally. I mean, the churches that we have the closest relationships with are the ones who agree with us, and we were here a couple of years ago. Those are the ones we know best.
And you have to remember, those religious bodies who are on the other side of us on same sex marriage were anathema to them. We're like the moral equivalent of racists, so you know, they don't reach out to us a lot. We don't hear from them a lot.
But, you know, there was a Baptist Church out in Southington that ran into some trouble with its bible college, you know, regarding the state government was requiring a bunch of things and we were here supporting them on a bill that was introduced a couple of years ago. I think the whole thing was eventually dealt with in other ways.
But there was legislation here that we were working on to help them on that. There's other religious liberty issues regarding other churches that are similar.
If some church came to us with something similar to the harassment that this Baptist bible college in Southington was experiencing, that would be of interest to us. That would be something we'd take a look at because religious liberty is, you know, we like to support the faith communities that sustain a good civil society.
REP. MORRIS: Peter, thank you very much.
PETER WOLFGANG: Thank you.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you very much, Representative Morris. You know, just for the record, I know I can speak for myself and Representative Lawlor and perhaps others of the General Assembly.
I don't highlight or advertise the death threats or physical threats that we've received, so it's not just because we don't do it, it doesn't mean they're not there.
PETER WOLFGANG: I only mentioned it because I got that question, but I figure it's probably a touchy but real topic for all of us who are prominent in this, on this issue.
SEN. MCDONALD: And on both sides.
PETER WOLFGANG: Yeah, on both sides.
SEN. MCDONALD: Thank you. Representative Hamm was next, then Senator McLachlan.
REP. HAMM: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I either have the advantage or disadvantage of having missed a lot of the conversation earlier in the day, but I wanted to share with you how concerned I was, in fact flat out furious with the tone of the conversations that you were having with Representative Lawlor, primarily.
I think it was really disrespectful and crossed the line. You said at least four times to questions that you weren't happy about having to answer, that you were here to discuss how to implement Kerrigan, Senate Bill Number 899, and that was the agenda for the afternoon.
I don't believe that's why we're here. There's an agenda. There are several published bills and the witnesses are here to assist members of the General Assembly in making decisions about how we're going to vote on those bills.
I understand sometimes it's difficult to be where you are. I remember 20 years ago dating myself, when Representative Tulisano and Representative Wollenberg were the chairs and I was representing a constituency from sitting where you're sitting, and they toasted my butt. I mean, they asked me questions that I just didn't want to hear, didn't have a clue about, but that's what we do in the Judiciary Committee. It's how we make decisions.
I just wanted you to know I was offended. I thought your tone was over the top. There was a lot of snickering going on. It was, you were absolutely disrespectful to our process, and I hope that you've stopped it. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. MCDONALD: There wasn't a question but whenever somebody makes a statement I always afford the witness an opportunity to respond if they would like to.
PETER WOLFGANG: I will only say that, you know, thank you for your comments. I respectfully disagree with them.
SEN. MCDONALD: Senator McLachlan.
SEN. MCLACHLAN: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Mr. Wolfgang, thank you for your testimony today, and I'm glad that you accurately portray how important a discussion is.
I wonder if you could share with us a little more about the point that I brought up before with others and Representative Morris had just talked about also, and that is religious liberties.
You mentioned that there's this term in Hartford known as legislative intent, and that seems to be such a very important aspect of nearly every court decision that in fact, you know, the mystery of language not existing in Connecticut General Statutes, they will go back and look at the legislative intent of the words to create new laws. It's apparently what they do sometimes. And so, but that's part of the judicial process.
So if the legislative intent is oh, so important in everything we do, you made a point about the removal of language with regard to the legislative intent may be construed by the CHRO or “an enterprising judge” that can call into question what it really says.
And so, I wonder if you could elaborate a little bit on that and how that relates to either the lack of, or the assurance of, religious liberties in this case.
PETER WOLFGANG: Well, as I mentioned earlier, this body, this legislative body passed a bill, a law in 2005. When they passed the civil union law they attached an amendment to it, explicitly defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
And yet the Court in 2008 just, you know, by their own authority, created same sex marriage. It's possible that you can, in fact, in their case, in that case it was that they didn't like the legislative, what they read to be the legislative intent, and I think in the current environment in which we live, with the judges, with the Commission on Human Rights and so forth, that we have to be very careful and very explicit that we, especially, and you've heard it much in the discussion today, that you know, to oppose same sex marriage, well, that's the equivalent of racism.
And I think in that sort of political environment, we need to be very, very careful what we pass at the Legislature that something not be read as a legislative intent that some unelected agency head or judge can then take and run with for any other particular cultural agenda.
And my concern is that, I mean, this particular 81r, this particular statute that currently Senate Bill Number 899 would repeal in its totality. I mean, what this statute says is, nothing in the law shall be deemed or construed to mean that the state condones homosexuality, authorizes the promotion of it in the schools or authorizes some sort of quota system that if the Legislature repeals this law saying nothing in the law shall be construed to mean this, that some enterprising judge can say, well, this repeal, I'm going to read that as the Legislature intending that the law does mean this.
I think in the times that we're living in, and the things that we've seen, I think that's entirely possible. And even, you know, some of the conversation that's occurred in the course of this hearing, those of us who disagree with same sex marriage are the moral and perhaps seen in the legal equivalent of racist. We need to be very alert to that, and that has ramifications.
You asked me about religious liberty. Well, you know, how do we treat racists in the law? I mean, if you're a racist that has legal consequences for you. Bob Jones University lost its tax exempt status because they disapproved of interracial dating or something. There's other situations.
If those of us who are opposed to same sex marriage are considered the legal equivalent of that, then that will have effects on religious liberty.
Dave Reynolds, I think, made a reference to New Jersey. I think it's Cottage Grove where a Methodist Church or organization had a boardwalk pavilion and a lesbian couple wanted to rent it out for their civil union commitment ceremony, and because the Church refused to do that, they lost the tax exempt status over that beachfront pavilion.
These are the things that ought to be avoided. These are some of the reasons why we oppose same sex marriage to begin with. We never came up here and testified, the Family Institute didn't, and said, well, we're up here because homosexuality, whatever it was, Representative Lawlor was quoting Pope Benedict as saying.
We said we have concerns about religious liberty, about what's in the best interest of children, and we're seeing some of this come about in New Jersey and Massachusetts in other places.
And this is, you know, as Representative Morris has said, this is in this democratic deliberative body, this is my opportunity, the opportunity of the public to come before you and say, these are our concerns. Please get out in front of this. Please amend this bill in some way to protect this, to make sure this does not come about.
SEN. MCLACHLAN: Senate Bill Number 899 specifically exempts the clergy and allows them to take a pass on performing same sex marriages. But as I understand it, the First Amendment already provides that protection, but yet we're putting, there's an inclusion of that in the bill, specifically in the bill.
Is that problematic of, you know, all this legislative intent issue that that is included, but many others are excluded?
PETER WOLFGANG: That's an excellent point. I think it could be read that way. And you know, I mean, a lot of times from the people on the other side of this issue, they try to narrow down religious liberty to simply a question of whether the clergy will be forced to perform same sex marriage, and they assure us that no, that will never happen.
And you know, as I testified today and as Dave Reynolds testified, the question of the negative effects of same sex marriage on religious liberty go far beyond just the question of whether the clergy will be forced to perform same sex weddings.
It can be used as a way of sort of marginalizing and pushing the church or churches, out of the roles that they have traditionally always played in our society since its founding.
So I think your point is very true, that it is problematic the way that's written right now, that it could be read as a legislative intent, that the things that aren't specifically enumerated in there, you know, like justices of the peace and so forth, or these other issues that have come up today regarding religious liberty, are things that can be done.
SEN. MCLACHLAN: And so, you know, as I read the stories that are already out on the Internet about this hearing today, it's being reported that the concern is that florists will not be able to decline services to someone who is having a gay marriage.
I mean, I heard, I guess I heard something about that earlier this morning, but I must have missed that.
I think it's--
PETER WOLFGANG: You mean they wrote the story before I testified?
SEN. MCLACHLAN: No. I think it was someone else that they were writing about. But I guess here was my concern. I've heard a couple of my colleagues sort of whisper in my ear either as they were leaving or out in the hallway, that this discussion sort of ran into a ditch sometime along the day.
And that's alarming to me, because I think that the Chairs of this Committee in their vision of raising this important bill, feel that this is a very important matter.
And in Massachusetts they didn't bother fixing their decision, but in Connecticut, you know, we had a court decision and this Legislature wants to fix it, so it's very important.
And so it's alarming to me that the perception may be that this discussion is running into a ditch. So whatever we can do to steer it back out of the ditch is important if that's the perception, number one.
And number two, I wonder if you think that the Kerrigan decision has altered any rights in Connecticut? Has anyone's rights been enhanced, or has anyone's rights been taken away?
PETER WOLFGANG: The only thing that we know of thus far, in a way in which rights have been altered in Connecticut by the Kerrigan ruling is that one group of people in Connecticut have had their rights taken away, and that's the justices of the peace.
Under the old civil union law from 2005, justices of the peace had a right of conscientious objection. They could refuse to perform civil unions if they so desired.
Under the Kerrigan imposed same sex marriage ruling, they have been told by Attorney General Blumenthal that they no longer have that right.
So meanwhile, same sex couples, you know, the Kerrigan ruling did not confer upon them a single new right, benefit, privilege, that they did not already have under civil unions.
I mean, you've already heard the testimony from some of them. It's more in terms of, well, I feel that I'm affirmed now or something, but there's no actual rights from the state government that's been conferred on them.
It didn't enhance their rights. They didn't get any new rights. What happened was justices of the peace got a right taken away from them, and that's one of the things we'd like to see restored in Section 7.
SEN. MCLACHLAN: Can you expand on your reference to adoptions in Massachusetts? When we talked to Mr. Klein, I think his perception of the Catholic Charities Boston's reasons for their stopping adoption services in Massachusetts, his perception, and what I thought I was reading, was different, and so that's perfectly all right that we can agree to disagree on the perception of it.
But what is your opinion about the adoptions in Massachusetts, and what specific concern do you have regarding the effect of Senate Bill Number 899 as it relates to that here in Connecticut?
PETER WOLFGANG: Well the, regarding adoption in Boston, Mr. Klein is at least partly correct. I'm going on memory here, that Catholic Charities in Boston actually had been providing adoptions to same sex couples.
And as I recall, it was the Bishop, the Archbishop of Boston got wind of it and put a stop to it, and then, and that it was the same sex marriage ruling. I mean, he was under the impression that the earlier gay rights law didn't prevent him from putting a stop to it, but then the same sex marriage.
I think the folks inside the Catholic Church in Massachusetts tell the story differently than Ben Klein did, but I know they were providing it that the Bishop put a stop to it, and that it was related to the same, I recall that it was related to the same sex marriage matter, and I recall that Governor Romney actually was trying to carve out some sort of religious liberty exception for the Catholic Church for the adoptions, that it went nowhere.
And in fact, this was something of an internal debate within the Church. When I say the Church, I include lay activists like myself that, you know, that the Catholic Church could have gone to court over this and won, instead of choosing to quit their adoption business, but the lawyers that they were consulting thought differently, and so they were forced out of the adoption service.
Ben Klein says it was because of another, it was because of a gay rights law and not because of the same sex marriage thing. I thought I remembered it differently but I have to go back and check.
SEN. MCLACHLAN: Thank you. And finally, assuming that changes, amendments can be made to Senate Bill Number 899, do you feel that the Family Institute can be supportive of this measure as we try to move forward?
PETER WOLFGANG: Well, if it was amended to our satisfaction, we would at least drop out opposition of it. I mean, if the amendments that we add were strengthened, you know, put this bill in the position we want it into, support is probably too strong a word, but we would at least drop our opposition of it.
Of course, we're opposed to same sex marriage. We're opposed to the Kerrigan ruling, and we will look for venues and opportunities to address that issue.
But as far as the issue before us, if this, our concern if this goes beyond mere legislative housekeeping, that it goes beyond Kerrigan, and if it was changed to do no more than what Kerrigan absolutely requires, then we would at least drop out opposition.
SEN. MCLACHLAN: Thank you very much.
SEN. MCDONALD: Representative Holder-Winfield.
REP. HOLDER-WINFIELD: Good afternoon again. I have a question. In response to Senator McLachlan, you just said that there's only one group of people who have lost any rights and you referred to justices of the peace.
What rights did they lose?
PETER WOLFGANG: Under the civil union law, unlike the civil union law in Vermont, Connecticut crafted a civil union law that allowed JPs to conscientiously object. If they wanted to, if it violated their conscience, they did not have to perform same sex ceremonies.
REP. HOLDER-WINFIELD: I would think that that would be a privilege. It's not something that I think that everybody would agree you're entitled to, which is more along the lines of a right.
So, I mean, well maybe I should ask you the question. How do you define a right?
PETER WOLFGANG: How do I define a right? Well, I think it's defined in natural law, in the founding documents of the nation and in common sense and reason.
REP. HOLDER-WINFIELD: How do you define a right? I understand that there are documents we could refer to, but I'm asking you, how would you define a right?
You put forward that certain people lost a right.
PETER WOLFGANG: Rights are something rooted in our nature as human beings.
REP. HOLDER-WINFIELD: Okay.
PETER WOLFGANG: I mean, you're asking me a philosophical question.
REP. HOLDER-WINFIELD: I'm asking you a question to which I would think there would be an answer. If you're going to make an argument about whether rights have been gained or lost, I would assume that you would know what a right is. That's all I'm asking you from your point of view what a right is.
PETER WOLFGANG: I think, well, in regards to the matter of JPs, I think a right is the ability to perform your function without being told by the state that you can only do it by violating your conscience.
I think rights to conscience is a right, not a, you know, not a privilege to not require that your conscience be violated.
REP. HOLDER-WINFIELD: And when it comes to rights, where do my rights end and yours being? Where's that intersection?
PETER WOLFGANG: This is, you know, again, and it comes back to the race thing. This is very important. I despair of my ability to persuade you that justices of the peace not being forced to perform same sex weddings is a right rather than a privilege.
But the fact that you seem okay with the fact that this is something, whether it's a right or a privilege, this is something that's been taken away for justices of the peace, for any members of this Committee, or of the Legislature at large who understand, who agree with me that yeah, something's been taken away here, it shows the need to strengthen Section 7 of the, of Senate Bill Number 899.
Section 7 must be strengthened to restore justices of the peace their ability to have their right of conscience, which I do view as a right and not a privilege.
REP. HOLDER-WINFIELD: I actually ask you questions so that I can actually understand your position. I'm not trying to put forward anything, and it makes it more difficult for me to understand you when you tell me what I think.
So I'm asking you--
PETER WOLFGANG: I gathered from your line of questioning that you viewed it as a privilege. If I was mistaken, I apologize.
REP. HOLDEN-WINFIELD: I'm asking you to explain to me what you see as a right, and my understanding of what a right and a privilege is may be incorrect, so when I ask you, that is actually an opportunity for you to provide to me, perhaps I could be wrong. I believe that I can be wrong. It's an opportunity for you to clarify for me, and it makes it very difficult for me to understand your position when it seems that you're not very intent on answering a lot of the questions being asked.
PETER WOLFGANG: A right is, you know, I would be repeating what I've said at this point. A right is something rooted in our nature as human beings. It would include the right of conscience, the right of religious liberty and not being forced to do things that violate your religious beliefs just in order to perform a function in society.
REP. HOLDEN-WINFIELD: Do you believe that's absolute? So if something that falls within the way you described a right could cause harm, so there are limits to rights, correct?
PETER WOLFGANG: Yes.
REP. HOLDEN-WINFIELD: And so in terms of where rights abut, you would say that there are limits there to a point. There are points at which there are limits to one's rights.
I'm not trying, I'm actually trying to understand, whether you understand that or not. I'm actually really trying to understand where you're coming from.
So my question is, you do believe that there are limits when the two rights sometimes abut.
PETER WOLFGANG: Yes.
REP. HOLDEN-WINFIELD: And in this case, you may not be able to do this, but in this case, where would you see that point? And it's fine if you can't do it, but I'm just trying to get--
PETER WOLFGANG: Okay. It wouldn't be the case, for instance, and understand where I'm coming from. I mean, to me, well, frankly, there is no such thing as a right to redefine marriage, which is what has happened here.
Now, our opponents believe that there is, that there is this right to same sex marriage, and so as they see it, now they have this right that's been given to them.
And on this question of, you know, different rights abutting, that's the first thing that needs to be said about where we disagree, because I don't see an abutting of rights, but even accepting that line of viewing it, no same sex couple would somehow not be able to get married if justices of the peace were given their rights in conscience not to be forced to perform it.
There's always going to be someone who, out there, who would be willing to perform it for them. So I don't think it would be too much of a hardship on them to say, to allow justices of the peace their right not to perform same sex marriages.
This Legislature decided it wasn't too much of a hardship when they passed the civil union bill, and they included that right of objection.
REP. HOLDER-WINFIELD: Final question. Just once more so I actually understand. You said you don't see it as a right, and I can understand that you might not see that, so I guess my question to you is, in terms of how we operate civilly, where do rights come from?
PETER WOLFGANG: Rights are rooted in our nature as human beings. They're defined explicitly in the founding documents of the nation and the Constitution of the United States, the Declaration of Independence, and that nature and nature's laws as Thomas Jefferson put it in the Declaration of Independence.
REP. HOLDER-WINFIELD: Okay, thank you.
REP. LAWLOR: Further questions? Senator Gomes.
SEN. GOMES: I just have one question, I hope. Being a justice of the peace, evidently that's, you know, that's sort of a patronage job. They just pass them out to people at election time.
But there are certain rules that govern a justice of the peace. Where, you cannot take something away from somebody that they don't have. Could you show me where a justice of the peace had the right to not perform, to not perform a marriage in their job, in the makeup of the job as a justice of the peace.
PETER WOLFGANG: Well, this is one of the problems with what happens when marriage is redefined and why it should not have been.
They had a right to decline to perform same sex civil unions.
SEN. GOMES: Where?
PETER WOLFGANG: It was in the civil union law that was passed by this Legislature.
SEN. GOMES: But prior--
PETER WOLFGANG: A right I guess you could say that was granted by this body.
SEN. GOMES: Prior to that, the rights that you're talking about, where did they come from other than the law?
PETER WOLFGANG: Rights come from our nature as human beings, from the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, nature and nature's laws. Thomas Jefferson said it in the Declaration of Independence.
SEN. GOMES: Well, one of those things that will overrule your right is some specific job you might have, and there are rules that overrule your rights, too.
You don't always have that specific inherent right on any job that you work. Do you agree to that?
PETER WOLFGANG: This comes back to Maggie Gallagher's big idea from two years ago. If you create same sex marriage, which the Kerrigan Court has now done here in Connecticut, there's an inevitable clash between marriage and religious liberty, where, you know, you're now saying that because of same sex marriage, that folks of traditional values, traditional beliefs are being pushed out of something that they had before, that they can no longer be justices of the peace without violating their conscience.
I disagree with that. I don't think the Court mandates it, and I think Senate Bill Number 899 should be changed to protect that.
SEN. GOMES: You just answered something that you said that I said, I don't know if anybody in here ever heard me say all of what you just said.
I asked you, I asked you, do certain jobs that you have overrule, if they have rules on a job, overrule your rights for you to do anything you want to do?
PETER WOLFGANG: Yeah. I mean, I agree with that in principle. I don't agree with how you're applying the principle and what I take to be your question.
SEN. GOMES: Well you, well, I didn't apply it. When I asked you the question I didn't apply it to same sex marriage. I just applied, I just asked you the question according to the rules that on jobs, or rules for anything, whether you're in a school, whether you're in a university, whether you're on the job or whatever, there are certain rules that overrule your right to do whatever you want to do.
PETER WOLFGANG: Yes, Senator.
SEN. GOMES: Right. Thank you.
REP. LAWLOR: Further questions? Representative Morris.
REP. MORRIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and for the last time. As far as JPs piece okay, I thank you for clarifying for us what you perceive has been taken away in terms of justices of the peace rights, and we got this whole rights piece.
So I just want to restate what I think I'm hearing, and you tell me a yes or no if I'm correct.
What I conclude that you're saying, the right that JPs had was one that was statutorily given to them by this Legislature with the civil union bill. Is that correct?
PETER WOLFGANG: Yes.
REP. MORRIS: But I also may hear, and this one I need you to elaborate a little further on. Before I ask that, I do not hear you saying that the Legislature doesn't have the right to take that away from them. Am I correct? You're just stating that to go forward and do this, they will lose that right? Am I correct?
PETER WOLFGANG: Well, just to be clear. The Kerrigan ruling.
REP. MORRIS: No, no, be clear. All my question has to do with is, are you saying that, are you denying that the Legislature does have the right to take away what we gave?
PETER WOLFGANG: Yes.
REP. MORRIS: Okay. We certainly have the right to do it.
PETER WOLFGANG: Yes.
REP. MORRIS: But you're not arguing the fact that whether we have the right, you're just making it clear that if we do this the way we're doing it right now without amending the language, that right that we guarantee under the civil unions bill will be lost?
PETER WOLFGANG: Yes. They'll be deprived of.
REP. MORRIS: Okay. I'm going to have to go a little further to another right. So we've dealt with this. We statutorily gave it to them.
The right as I understand it from you goes to our larger conversation that we've had in terms of religious freedom. Why, as I heard you say it, I think we gave them the right not to perform a civil ceremony for their religious conviction. Is that correct?
PETER WOLFGANG: You know, I have to go back and, I'm trying to describe it in terms of conscience. I'd have to go back and read the actual discussion that took place on the floor of the House and the Senate when that, to what extent it was about religious liberty or just conscience, you know, right of conscience in general, but it's, you know, it tends to all hang together.
REP. MORRIS: Okay. Well, even if it was just right of conscience, you don't remember what the debate was about on the floor, because to me that's meaningful.
If we made that exception, there had to be some valid reason, and if religious liberties or conscience was considered then, I personally have a question why we're not considering that now.
PETER WOLFGANG: Right.
REP. MORRIS: That's why I need you to help me with this. Right.
PETER WOLFGANG: That's a great point, and you know, I only want to add, too, that you know, the Kerrigan decision, there's nothing explicitly in there that requires that this right be taken away from justices of the peace. It was the Attorney General's interpretation of it afterwards.
But you know, your specific question to me is, well, what was, you know, we're back to legislative intent again--
REP. MORRIS: Yeah, logic.
PETER WOLFGANG: What was the legislative intent of this right that was given the justices of the peace in the civil union law, and see, I'd like to make sure I have all my facts straight before I say something, and I would have to go back and check the actual testimony, I mean, you know, the transcripts of what took place on the floor of the House and the Senate, but I would be very surprised if religious liberty was not a big part of it.
REP. MORRIS: Okay, thank you very much, because certainly we respect the Attorney General as well, but recognize it was an opinion so, and it certainly wasn't challenged under the civil union law, so that's why I'm following this line of questioning. Thank you very much.
PETER WOLFGANG: Thank you.
REP. LAWLOR: Further questions? If not, thank you very much.
PETER WOLFGANG: Thank you, Representative.
REP. LAWLOR: Next is Patrick Doyle. Mr. Doyle, please, and then, is Sean Glenn still here? Sean Glenn? Okay, you'll be next, Sean. And then Reverend Pawelek. Is Reverend Pawelek still here?
PATRICK DOYLE: Good afternoon, Representative Lawlor and members of the Judiciary Committee. My name is Patrick Doyle and I'm the Education Manager at the Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, and I'm here today to express our support of Raised Senate Bill Number 1056 An Act Concerning Students' Right To Free Speech.
And I commend the Committee for putting the bill forward, but I can't help but feel a little disheartened that it's come to this.
Forty years ago the United States Supreme Court declared that students do not shed their rights at the schoolhouse gate, but the Avery Doninger case has shown in Connecticut, students actually shed their rights far before they even arrive at school.
That needs to be changed. We need to restore freedom of speech to students.
But we should also protect the rights of parents to raise their own children, something you've heard a little bit about today, the right to faculty to uphold free speech without fear of discipline, and the ability of school administrators to run their schools without the threat of litigation based on a student's freedom of speech.
Raised Senate Bill Number 1056 would accomplish all of this. Students should exercise the same right of free speech as every other citizen, and they must be given an opportunity to meet the academic standards of citizenship that are put forward by this state.
To accomplish such, this bill must restore the tasks established in Tinker v. Des Moines that administrators cannot censor or punish student speech merely because it causes administrators to be inconvenienced, annoyed or embarrassed.
Only student speech with a strong likelihood of significant disruption to the education process, that is, it prevents the school from doing their job should be limited.
Schools should be given leeway to keep on-campus dialogue civil. That includes prohibiting rude, vulgar or indecent speech, as well as editing school-based media for professional standards, quality writing, style, and to prevent substantial invasions of privacy.
But schools should not be allowed to censor a school paper or performance because they disagree with the message, want to avoid legitimate criticism or to bury revelations about deficiencies within their school.
At the same time, those school districts and personnel should not be liable for students' free speech protected under the law. Just like adults, students should be liable for defamatory speech, not their school.
This bill protects faculty members, especially those advising student newspapers and organizations so that no faculty member who advises the students of their rights or refuses to violate the law, or even report violations to their supervisor in good faith, should be fired, transferred or disciplined in any way for those good faith actions.
At the end of the school day, parents should have the right to teach values and control their children's behavior. The school teaching mission should not reach into the home to trump the rights of parents to raise their kids.
Raised Senate Bill Number 1056 accomplishes all these protections, and additionally it helps schools and students meet the Connecticut statewide academic standard of the rights and responsibilities of citizens.
That standard states, students will demonstrate the knowledge and the right and responsibilities of citizens to participate in and shape public policy and contribute to our democratic way of life.
Resources created by the Department of Education suggest high school students meet these standards by demonstrating the following.
The ability to identify and explain characteristics needed for effective participation in civic life, to monitor and influence the formation and implementation of policy through various forms of participation, to establish, explain and apply criteria to evaluate rules and laws, and to take a position on current policy issues, and to attempt to influence its formation, development and implementation.
A student cannot accomplish these standards without the right to free speech. That's the value of this bill. It allows students to develop as critical thinkers, ready to contribute to the democratic process as the State of Connecticut has put forward in its academic standards.
I thank the Committee for your time and welcome your questions.
REP. LAWLOR: Thank you. So if I understand this proposal correctly, it's that you could theoretically punish students for things they said off the school grounds if it was particularly incendiary? You've got the words in there. The standard is in the bill, right?
But I mean, you're acknowledging that it's actually possible to punish a student for something that they said, let's say on a blog, or whatever.
PATRICK DOYLE: In order for the school to have the authority versus the parent or other legal jurisdiction, in order for the school to have the authority to do that, it has to work its way back into the classroom and it has to work its way back in a way that prevents the school from providing education to its students.
REP. LAWLOR: Could you think of an example of something that you could say, let's say on a blog or a face book page or something like that, that would meet that standard just for illustration purposes?
PATRICK DOYLE: Off of the top of my head, I can't.
REP. LAWLOR: How about if they said tomorrow in the middle of math class everybody light a cigarette or something like that. They're clearly trying to organize some kind of event during the middle of class, and that they're encouraging people to do that. Would that seem to meet that standard?
PATRICK DOYLE: Under the right context, it seems as though that would. Clearly, that would prevent the teacher from teaching class at that time, and you know, certainly I would think it's within the school's right to punish students who are for the sake of interrupting the education process, breaking the rules of the school.
REP. LAWLOR: And so, and then the flip side of that would be if they were just talking on line or posting things on line that were very insulting to a teacher, criticizing some attribute of the teacher or something like that, that would be protected free speech unless it somehow was going to actually disrupt the class. Is that the kind of distinction?
PATRICK DOYLE: I believe that that is protected free speech, and I believe that there are ways for schools to teach civic dialogue.
I encourage schools to let students use their free speech while they're on campus, where the school has the ability to teach, not just that the speech is protected, but can also speak, teach the appropriate manner in which to participate in civil discourse. That's appropriate and helpful, in fact, in meeting the standards of the Connecticut State Department of Education for students.
So I believe that is appropriate on campus. Off campus, I do not believe that it makes sense for the schools to be making the decisions in terms of whether or not the tenor, the terminology, the phrases that students are using are appropriate or not.
When my child is at my house on my computer, I feel as though I'm responsible for what he's posting on line, and I believe I should be the person who can make that determination as to whether or not he's using appropriate language and/or visiting appropriate websites.
REP. LAWLOR: So, and then in just reading the proposed bill it seems to indicate that you could punish a student for lewd, vulgar or indecent speech on campus or in the context of the classroom or something like that? Is that what--
PATRICK DOYLE: Exactly. So if the schools have established rules in terms of how students are to conduct themselves while at school, those rules in fact stand.
However, it is inappropriate for a school, as an example, to say any statement, which questions the policy of our school is considered, would be considered lewd. That would be, you know, a perversion of that and not acceptable.
REP. LAWLOR: And I'm just curious. I don't know if someone's tried to put this into context of our existing statutes, but the words, I think, I suspect lewd is there somewhere, but I'm not sure if vulgar appears in the statutes anywhere. Maybe it does. I don't know. Did you guys get that?
PATRICK DOYLE: I would have to check. I don't know the answer to that question.
REP. LAWLOR; You know, we have a preference for not inserting completely new words, concepts, which have never been defined before in there, so that might be worth talking about.
You know what you're trying to say.
PATRICK DOYLE: Right.
REP. LAWLOR: But the exact words might be (inaudible).
PATRICK DOYLE: Certainly.
REP. LAWLOR: And in the final category seems like it says materially and substantially invades privacy. So would that mean, for example, if students had photographs of a teacher or staff or something like that naked, or doing something that was only private, and they were sending those around, even if they were doing it off campus on their web page. That theoretically could be disciplined.
PATRICK DOYLE: Right. There are many ways to invade privacy. I would suggest another way might be, and certainly something that the ACLU always works against would be the example of perhaps a students learns about a teacher's medical condition, obviously inappropriate for them to broadcast that information as it then strips that teacher of their right to medical privacy.
REP. LAWLOR: Okay. All right. Thank you. Are there other questions? Representative Dillon.
REP. DILLON: Just for, hi, how do you do? I asked it seems like days ago, about a case but I couldn't remember the name of the case, and I believe it was Morse v. Frederick that involved a student who was holding up a sign that said bong hits for Jesus.
PATRICK DOYLE: Correct.
REP. DILLON: And was actually suspended, not based on, well, the grounds theoretically were that it violated the school's drug policy, and it went to the Supreme Court 2007, I think.
PATRICK DOYLE: Yes.
REP. DILLON: How would that, would that case fall within the ambit of the language that you're supporting? How would it be affected?
PATRICK DOYLE: It's difficult to say. I will say that the ACLU disagrees with that Supreme Court decision. Joseph Frederick himself would say that the meaning of his sign was the words had no meaning, and in fact what he would say is, what the sign said to me was, look at me. I have free speech and famously says I couldn't test whether or not I have free speech if I pulled out a sign that said I love Gino or hooray for the Olympics as it was the Olympic torch rally.
So in that particular case he was testing his right to say something that was unpopular. Certainly a student has the right to say something that was unpopular or considered, you know, not the phrasing or terminology that an adult would use. Certainly if they're off campus, away from the school, they have the right to do it.
There are some very sticky points that not being a lawyer, I'm not 100 percent in my memory where the Court came out in terms of that being on campus and off campus, which was another question in the Morse v. Frederick that perhaps since, perhaps this was a school-sponsored activity and perhaps it wasn't.
So I like the language in this bill in terms of clarifying that sort of where the rights of the school ends at the end of the day.
REP. DILLON: Well, I believe, through you, Mr. Chairman, that he was holding the sign up near school. It was visible from the school, but he was not on the campus.
And the claim was he was at a school-sponsored event, but he was actually not, except that if you were at the, on the school property you could see it.
PATRICK DOYLE: Correct.
REP. DILLON: And so, I don't know, it's odd. I mean, it was Alaska, too, and I won't get into that. But it did go to our own Supreme Court, and so I guess theoretically then someone standing nowhere near, or someone who is not on campus, who is not participating with the school, but it happened to be a student who admits publicly that they're testing free speech, which of course gets into the provocateur thing.
PATRICK DOYLE: Correct.
REP. DILLON: That the Court did hold that that was a school-sponsored event, therefore, which is odd, and I--
PATRICK DOYLE: Right. And I believe, you know, in terms of what I know about the case, I believe what happened, the principal successfully argued that she had granted release from school as specifically to students who wished to go to the event and so therefore argued that that was, that that made it in essence a school-sponsored event.
In fact, the principal did take the banner from Joseph Frederick in that case. She crossed the street and confiscated it, and then later brought him back to the school to discipline him.
Ironically, he was initially disciplined for five days and chose a rather unfortunate time to quote Thomas Jefferson, and was immediately granted another five days' suspension.
So I'm not sure where that fell out in terms of the Supreme Court as to whether or not quoting Thomas Jefferson is worthy of a five-day suspension.
REP. DILLON: Okay, thanks. Just wanted to see how it applied. Yeah.
REP. FOX: Thank you, and are there any other questions from members of the Committee? Seeing none, thanks for your testimony.
PATRICK DOYLE: Thank you.
REP. FOX: Next we have Sean Glenn. Good evening and thanks for waiting around all day.
SEAN GLENN: No problem. Thanks for having me. So thank you Honorable Co-Chairpersons for allowing me to testify this evening. My name is Sean Glenn and I am a junior at Simsbury High School and the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts.
I am here today to speak in support of Senate Bill Number 1056 An Act Concerning Students' Rights To Free Speech.
As a student of the arts, I find it essential to finish my career as a high school student without the fear of punishment of self expression. Students throughout history have always pushed the envelope in our search for identity as we work to discover who we are. My free speech rights should not be impinged upon solely due to my status as a student.
American values have long held that censorship of speech is wrong regardless of how uncomfortable it might make one feel. I believe it is in the best interest of schools in democratic societies to encourage self expression, not suppress it, while also moderating responsible behavior to prepare us for our role as future community and global leaders.
American historian, Henry Steel Commager stated, the fact is that censorship always defeats its own purpose, for it creates in the end the kind of society that is incapable of exercising real discretion.
It is critical that as young people we be allowed to exercise freedom of choice in order to evolve into accountable members of a democratic society. Thank you for your time and I appreciate all those lengthy questions before. That allowed me to get here after school, and I welcome any questions.
REP. FOX: A lot of people could have put a full day in. I don't know. Any other, any questions? Representative Dillon, did you have a question.
REP. DILLON: No, thanks. Well, I really, no.
REP. FOX: Yes, Senator.
SEN. MCLACHLAN: Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you for coming to the Legislature and sharing your concerns. I wonder, what prompted you to take this extraordinary step and sit here and prepare for it and you know, obviously you put a lot of time and thought into your comments today.
So I'm wondering what was the genesis of that. What got you to take that step that's necessary in the democratic process and speak up?
SEAN GLENN: Well, as I stated beforehand I am a student of the arts, and I find it very important that I feel free in expressing myself in a performance or such, that I don't want to be afraid that I'm going to get in trouble for what I might say.
I might, I like to poke fun at the world today. That's what I like to do. In my classes, I take a comedic class, which is that, social beater, so I don't want to be afraid that I will be punished for this as I'm performing, and I definitely think that students should take, like take account for this and step up and stand up for their rights.
So I decided to come here today and wait and just give my testimony here today.
SEN. MCLACHLAN: And will you share this experience with your peers and encourage them to do the same?
SEAN GLENN: Yes, I did actually in my social studies class. I developed a power point and presented it in front of the class. I have a few friends here today, and I wish to get more but just because of transportation, I'm in Simsbury, so it's difficult to get transportation out here to Hartford, and also with school and such it's difficult to get more students. But I encourage them.
SEN. MCLACHLAN: Thank you for coming. Appreciate it.
SEAN GLENN: Thank you.
REP. FOX: Thank you very much, and we do definitely encourage you to continue to stay involved because you did a great job here tonight--
SEAN GLENN: Thank you.
REP. FOX: --and hopefully you'll come back again on other issues and bring some more friends with you. Thank you.
SEAN GLENN: Thank you.
REP. FOX: Next is Reverend Joshua Pawelek. Not here? Obadiah Ballinger and Javen Swanson. I probably said those both wrong. Good evening.
OBADIAH BALLINGER: Good evening, Representative Lawlor and members of the Judiciary Committee. Our names are Obadiah Ballinger and Javen Swanson. We live in New Haven and are engaged to be married.
We strongly urge your support of Senate Bill Number 899 implementing marriage equality for same sex couples.
We met at Yale Divinity School in 2006 and discovered that we have much in common. Both of us grew up in rural Minnesota communities, attended church affiliated colleges and went to seminary with the full support of our families and our faith communities.
We're both pursuing ordination in ministry in Christian denominations.
Our life together reflects this pastoral preparation. We first met studying biblical Greek. We practice our sermons with each other on Saturday nights, and we plan for a big church wedding this May in the Divinity School Chapel.
As people of faith, we believe in the importance of marriage and family life. We understand marriage to be a sacred covenant between two people blessed by God and recognized by the community.
We know also that marriage has a secular dimension. It's supported with special benefits according to civil law. These are designed to weave together a social network that supports a couple and whatever children grow up in their care.
These governmental privileges and responsibilities, which you oversee as Legislators, help to hold families together.
Though we happen to be gay, we ask to be treated like every heterosexual couple also preparing for their wedding day. We're delighted to know that our marriage will have true equality in Connecticut.
Civil unions have been a helpful attempt to extend governmental benefits and responsibilities to same sex couples, but they have at the same time denied true equality.
Civil unions cannot hope to capture the centuries of culture and tradition wrapped up in the word marriage however identical the legislative provisions might be.
We're pleased that this bill will end the division between the two categories and consider married, all loving couples that enter into covenant together.
We have been called by God into a relationship with each other and will marry before God and a supportive community. Recognizing that some religious communities will choose not to lend their support to full marriage equality, we appreciate the freedom of religion recognized in this bill permitting some faith communities to dissent.
With this legislation, which treats us as full and equal citizens, our religious covenant will carry with it the complete rights and responsibilities of the law.
We ask you to support this bill to implement equal protection and make our joy complete. Thank you.
REP. LAWLOR: Thanks to both of you and congratulations. It's something to be admired and congratulations on having established this relationship.
Just out of curiosity, since you're planning your wedding, have you had any problems finding a photographer or florist or anything?
OBADIAH BALLINGER: We've been delighted to find very helpful people wherever we've looked. Most of them are our friends and members of the community and in the wedding service industry have been very supportive and thankful for our business.
REP. LAWLOR: Well, that's great. That would be my sense. I asked earlier, there was a couple here earlier who had been together for 33 years, and I asked them had they encountered any wait staff or anybody that had ever sort of refused to serve them or provide a service because they perceived them to be a gay couple of whatever.
Since you're a relatively recent couple and younger and probably travel in different circles, have you had that experience as a couple yet in Connecticut?
OBADIAH BALLINGER: Not really. We've been very lucky. I would say that there's a certain amount of, when you go out to each, the waiter doesn't always know who to give the bill to.
There are certain things that still put us in an awkward position time to time, but we haven't experienced this type of discrimination that was mentioned earlier.
REP. LAWLOR: And I guess in many ways it's, times are changing quite a bit and I think that that couple mentioned that was a few years ago that that took place.
And you're divinity students. Obviously, you've given a lot of thought to these things, and I'm sure you talk to members of the clergy and people of faith all the time.
How do you sense the evolution of thinking among people of faith on the topic of gay marriage, same sex couples? I mean, have you seen a change over the past three or four years? I know you're new to Connecticut. Maybe it's a different context here altogether, but I'm curious of your impressions.
OBADIAH BALLINGER: My particular tradition in the United Church of Christ has wrestled with this for decades but has seen in its own life together, our denomination has seen progression toward greater openness and inclusivity, and wanting to use the same standards of behavior to recognize and hold same sex couples to the same standards that we hold heterosexual couples to.
So I was at the National Church Conference in 2005 where our Church took the step at the national setting to support marriage equality.
But in my experience, and in speaking with other people of faith, there is a general progression toward more openness and inclusivity toward equality for gay and lesbian people.
REP. LAWLOR: This was the national meeting in Hartford that you're referring to?
OBADIAH BALLINGER: No. This was actually a national meeting two years earlier in 2005 in Atlanta.
REP. LAWLOR: Did you go to the meeting in Hartford?
OBADIAH BALLINGER: I did, yes.
REP. LAWLOR: Did you hear Barack Obama's speech?
OBADIAH BALLINGER: I did, yes. We did.
REP. LAWLOR: Oh, great.
JAVEN SWANSON: And I would echo most of what he said. I'm actually a Lutheran. I'm a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, and we are in the process right now of the conclusion of an eight-year process of studying sexuality, which has actually been going on for the entire life of our Church studying homosexuality.
And we're just into the point of voting on a social statement on sexuality and some recommendations for a ministry, which would potentially open up our denomination to the possibility of same sex marriage recognized by the Lutheran Church, and the possibility of ordaining gay people in committed relationships.
REP. LAWLOR: And as this process unfolds in each of the two churches, I mean, have you personally noticed that people's points of view evolve over time, and do you know people who used to think one way and now switched their thinking a little bit, or evolved at least?
JAVEN SWANSON: Yeah, I mean, I know, just speaking from a Lutheran position that each church-wide assembly, we have an assembly every two years, each time the vote gets a little closer, and so I know that just looking at that measure, it is, things are changing.
I do know that in my own world, Minnesota congregation, as I started coming out, people in the congregation when they realize that they know someone who is gay, it really transforms them, or at least causes them to wrestle a lot with the issue.
So I think that as more and more gay people come out and continue to be more public about living their life, I think it does have an impact on people.
REP. LAWLOR: It seems like that's a universal phenomenon, right?
JAVEN SWANSON: Yes.
REP. LAWLOR: The more, and if you know somebody it's different, right? That's interesting. You know, the United Church of Christ, you may know this, but it used to be the official religion of the State of Connecticut. Did you know that?
JAVEN SWANSON: I do know that.
REP. LAWLOR: And we wouldn't be having this discussion if had, the church would have made the decision for us and it would have been over--
JAVEN SWANSON: We'd be talking about different things.
REP. LAWLOR: That's right. Now we wait for the Court to do it. So, anyway, well, thank you very much. Are there further questions? Representative Dillon.
REP. DILLON: I just wanted to welcome you as a fellow New Havener, and I guess the Chair asked you about changes in terms of attitudes.
You're both from rural Minnesota. Do you plan to settle here in Connecticut or go back to Minnesota and do you see a difference regionally or rural urban?
OBADIAH BALLINGER: We expect probably to move closer to our families back in Minnesota at some point, and the differences between urban and rural, I mean, I would say there are differences, but you're going to find people who are more, we know people who are very accepting who live in a rural context and certainly not everyone who lives in an urban setting is going to be fully on board with marriage equality.
So you can make some generalizations, but it would be painful to pinpoint those specific people to stereotype too much.
JAVEN SWANSON: And speaking regionally, too, just in terms of east coast versus upper mid-west, it's definitely different. It's a different climate here, for sure, and I think that just my experience at Yale Divinity School I know very few classmates who do not support us, and those who don't aren't particularly vocal about it.
And I know that it's much more difficult to be in our position at seminary and the mid-west. So I do know that that's a regional difference is big.
REP. DILLON: Thanks for coming all the way up here. That's nice, and waiting so long.
JAVEN SWANSON: Thank you.
REP. LAWLOR: Representative Holder-Winfield.
REP. HOLDER-WINFIELD: I just want to welcome you, too, especially considering that you helped me with my campaign.
REP. LAWLOR: There you go.
REP. HOLDER-WINFIELD: I just wanted to say that.
JAVEN SWANSON: You're welcome.
REP. LAWLOR: So you can go home, now.
JAVEN SWANSON: We're happy you were successful.
REP. HOLDER-WINFIELD: Thank you.
REP. LAWLOR: Thank you. Are there further questions? If not, thanks to both of you. Thanks for staying all day. You picked a relatively low number. You thought you'd be out the door by 3:00, I'm sure. Right?
Next is Laura Gordon. Is Laura still here? Ethel Sorokin? Andrew Zwick? And as you're coming up, Mr. Zwick, let me just see if the next few folks are here so we'll know who's next. Pat Avallone? Pat, okay, you'll be next.
And then Kate Bartos. Is Kate still here? Tom Ude. Tom's still here. So it will be Mr. Zwick, Miss Avallone and Mr. Ude. Katie Bartos? She'll be next if she's still here. Go ahead, Mr. Zwick. Mr. Zwick is Number 71. Go ahead, I'm sorry.
ANDREW ZWICK: My name is Andrew Zwick and I'm here today to oppose Senate Bill Number 899. I feel that we're in an ever-deepening recession right now and the Governor has asked us to share the price to balance the budget, I'm wondering what are the financial impacts of this bill on the state as a whole, the actual, the implied, the collateral financial cost to the taxpayer.
The state has eliminated various commissions to balance the budget, such as the Commission for Women, the Commission for Hispanics and the Aging Commission, as well as for the elderly, and I'm wondering if we cannot afford to pass this bill in light of what's going on with the economic climate.
REP. LAWLOR: I don't believe it actually costs anything.
ANDREW ZWICK: Not for implementing it or for the additional cost of, like we've had some discussions today here on education if it came into our school systems. Who will do the teaching? Will it be in the classrooms?
REP. LAWLOR: It doesn't require anything like that. It's eliminating some language that's in the statutes, like the civil unions. I mean, it might save some money to get rid of the whole civil union status. Right now it still exits so to get rid of all those forms and all that extra stuff. So apart from that, I don't think it changes anything in terms of money.
ANDREW ZWICK: Okay, for the bill right now, but what about the implications in the future?
REP. LAWLOR: Well, those would have to be separate bills in the future. We'd have to pass a bill if anybody wanted to do anything other than this.
ANDREW ZWICK: But that's eventually going to be coming down the pike.
REP. LAWLOR: But that will be up to our future Legislators, the Legislature, to decide whether to vote for or against the bill.
Each of the bills we consider has a fiscal note prepared by the nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis that figures these things out.
I think when they do the civil union bill, they actually determined they would actually make money because more people would be paying the marriage tax and stuff like that, so. Of course, all the weddings and taxes that are generated through those ceremonies and things like that.
So I think the old fiscal note was that we would actually make money doing it, but this doesn't change anything.
ANDREW ZWICK: Well, those were the comments that I have for tonight.
REP. LAWLOR: Okay. Well, thank you very much for waiting today. Mr. Avallone. Is Kate Bartos back now?
KATE BARTOS: Yes.
REP. LAWLRO: Okay. You'll be next ma'am, and then Tom Ude, then is Beth Kerrigan still here? Yeah, okay.
PAT AVALLONE: Thank you so much, and my name is Pat Avallone. I'm opposed to the bill, Senate Bill Number 899. I just have a few comments, especially on Number 15, which defines as no man may marry his mother, grandmother, daughter, granddaughter, sister, niece, stepmother or stepdaughter, and no woman may marry her father, grandfather, son, grandson, uncle, nephew, step-father or step-son.
Now, as we define these words, because see, words mean a lot, and the (inaudible) of the words will make or break a person.
Now it speaks about no person may marry such a person, parent. Now, taking away from a father and a mother, this would specify it as parents.
Grandparents, taking away a grandfather and a grandmother it redefines what a grandfather and a grandmother means.
A child, it redefines what a son and a daughter means. Grandchild, again, redefines what a son and a daughter means. Siblings, it also redefines children, you know, parents of siblings, sibling child, step-parents or step-child and marriage within this degree is void.
I would say that marriage within the degree of you know, of a mother or a father or sister or brother, you know, nephew and son. Also, when you transform what we have held initially from the beginning of time as father and mother and you use a transforming word, it makes it very easy to pass an agenda, an idea, because that idea that has been passed, it is not given by, as I believe, the Creator God, but has been given by thoughts and minds of human beings that like me, at one particular time fell into sin.
I, myself, was a sinner, and I thank God, I thank God that he came into my life and he saved me. He brought me through by his precious blood.
Is he able to save this agenda also of marrying between men and men and women and women? I believe he could. I believe that he could bring through any of the gay, as you want to call them, homosexual, lesbians, to understand what the true value of life is.
The value of life is not between a man and a man and a woman and a woman. The value of life is between a man and a woman. Without that, you get no creation.
Now, I just wanted to bring up a few more points. To determine, when you have a baby, how do you determine what that baby is? Is he a boy or is he a girl, or would you determine him as what, as an it until you wait until he grows up to find out his sexual origins or what he is like?
I mean, this is truly against humanity. It's against nature of what is going on. I mean, I'm speaking up not by anger, by righteousness, I'm speaking. I'm speaking up because I believe in my belief, and truly, as I said, the Lord has opened my mind and my eyes to see the truth in the spiritual world.
Well, let me just bring it forth. Are the demon spirits are taking over our world. I'd like to speak up because I really don't like demon spirits. I don't fight against flesh and blood, against principalities of the dark world.
So what I was going to bring to you also, it was by changing these words, right, now you could determine a mother is no more a mother but is a parent and a father is no more a father but it's a parent. So it could be either a father, two fathers and two mothers would be just fine as the parents.
Or, as a child you'd call them a sibling or you could call them a child, and it would not certainly mean that it's a boy or a girl.
So the agenda of having the nature of boy and girl it is lost by the thoughts and ideas of sinful mankind.
Now, is God able to save all? Yes, he is. Does God like what's going on? No, he doesn't. I mean, I'd like to answer some of the questions that you had proposed to some of the other gentleman that were up here.
God thinks it's an abomination unto him, an abomination, and I have nothing against people, but I have something against the acts of what people do.
Of course, I'm not going to go, I'm going to love them anyways. I truly believe that I could tell them about the Lord and you can change anybody's heart, and that goes, that went for me and it goes for my extended family, for anybody that wants to accept Jesus Christ, the Kind of King and the Lord of Lords, the one that is able to save sinned men. He's able to save me. He's able to save you, and anyone who wants to accept him, and he will give you a new revelation.
Of course in this, nowadays, I mean, everything looks so great now, we could have implementation of seeds, you know, we could have an incubation so you know, babies are, but I have a question.
If we place, and this is all in hypotheses, which it could be, if we place two men on an island and two women on an island and a man and a woman on another island, which of those do you think are going to live and reproduce? That is my question to the agenda and the idea that certain people of this world have and not seeing that it's a destruction in life. It's a destruction in the belief of a human race and a naturally, also into a natural implementation of man and woman.
This is what I wanted to speak up.
REP. LAWLOR: Thank you very much.
PAT AVALLONE: You're welcome. We thank you so much for your hearing.
REP. LAWLOR: No problem. Any questions? If not, thank you. Next is Kate Bartos.
KATE BARTOS: Good evening. I'm here to say that I am opposed to Senate Bill Number 899. I'm not here to complain about the economy or the greed that got us to the economic crisis. I'm not here to ask for support for our military or our veterans, which I think is incredibly important, but I'm here for something that is even more crucial and basic and I truly wish I were not here.
I believe that marriage is between one man and one woman and it's a basic building block of society, and that children deserve the protection of their two biological parents. Life has been this way since Adam and Eve.
After watching and questioning of the people and, the people giving testimony this morning and throughout the day, you'll see that I respectfully disagree with many of the members of the Committee.
Frankly, as a citizen, I felt that the State Judiciary hijacked the will of the majority of the people, of the citizens of the State of Connecticut last fall when they declared the civil union bill unconstitutional and created this mess that we are in now, and I say that with all due respect although I know it's a strong statement. It's my opinion and I'm very grieved to have this situation in our state.
The majority of the citizens in this state do not condone the gay lifestyle, but they accept is as an expression of free will.
The majority of people strongly oppose the promotion of the teaching of the gay lifestyle in our schools, exposing our children to harmful behavior.
If you doubt that being gay is harmful, then just go to the National Institute of Health on the web and just search death statistics of homosexuals. The medical studies are astounding and very sad. The first answer I found this morning, and I've done it before, so I just think random answers will work fine said that quote, Surveys suggested that the median age of death for homosexuals is less than 50 years old.
Four contemporary data bases were used. Number one, obituaries in the Homosexual Press from 1993 to 1997 reflected treatment success for those with AIDS but suggested a median age of death less than 50 years.
Number two, two random, two large random sexuality studies in 1994, one in the U.S.A. and the other in Britain, yielded results consistent with the median age of death for homosexuals of less than 50 years.
Number three, the median age of those ever married in Denmark, Sweden and Norway was about 50 years, while that of the ever homosexually partnered, anyone who had ever had a homosexual partner, was about 40 years.
Further, the traditionally married were about five times more apt to be old, and four times less apt to be widowed young.
And number four, IV drug abusers and homosexuals taking HIV tests in Colorado had almost identical age distribution. The four lines of evidence were consistent with previous findings suggested that homosexual activity may be associated with a life span shortened by 20 to 30 years, unquote.
I suggest that you do it yourself, fellow citizens, in the privacy of your own home, go to the National Institute of Health website yourself. We are being deceived. Why would we want to sanction, never mind condone a lifestyle that shortens life 20 to 30 years?
Why would we want to expose our children to this danger? We might as well teach them to go out and smoke and take drugs. Love compels us to protect our children and our loved ones and our fellow citizens from danger.
Why would we as a state want to establish this dangerous lifestyle as a specific and separate culture of classification in society?
Did you catch that last study? IV drug abusers had almost identical AIDS distributions with homosexuals. It's very heartbreaking.
As a taxpayer and a parent and a pastor, I believe that marriage between one man and one woman should be protected. So do the majority of people in this state and this country.
Look, even getting a driver's license is protected. You have to be 16. You must have adequate vision probably to see the road and the signs and the other cars, and you have to pass the test.
We're not violating anyone's civil rights for people who don't qualify for a driver's license. We're not violating anyone's civil rights for having a few basic requirements for getting married, like satisfying the biological requirement of being designed to have children and to continue our society.
Section 17 must be amended to protect children and families and to protect religious liberty in this state as one of the most basic liberties in our society. Thank you.
REP. LAWLOR: Thank you very much. Are there questions? If not, thank you. Tom Ude and Beth Kerrigan. Is Chris Powell still here? How about Don Shubert. Is Don here? Okay, sorry, all right. You'll be after Miss Kerrigan.
Before you start, Tom, let me just, I want to go through the remaining names, just so we get a general idea of who's left to testify, okay? So Darlene Capson? Is Darlene still here? Jane Ferrall? Joe Maisano? Conrad Seifert? Jim Hanley? Sharon Emmons and Mary Roche? Maureen Murphy? She's still here. Ed Gavin? Beverly Prager? Jeannine Marson? Paul Brady? Minh Leu.
MINH LEU: Yes.
REP. LAWLOR: Okay. Tom Casey? Amy Miller? Don Noel? Mike Fitzpatrick? David Collins? Mary Elizabeth-hager Dixon?
MARY ELIZABETH HAGER DIXON: Yes.
REP. LAWLOR: John Curry? John Friedlander?
DEBBY FRIEDLANDER: Yes.
REP. LAWLOR: Art Arpin? Dave Cameron? Dennis Carrithers?
DENNIS CARRITHERS: Yes.
REP. LAWLOR: Jennifer Zito? Rosemarie Lewis?
ROSEMARIE LEWIS: Yes.
REP. LAWLOR: Jan Guaraino-Rhone? Ally Segar?
ALLY SEGAR: Yes.
REP. LAWLOR: Is there anyone else who plans on testifying I didn't call? I know, but is anybody here that signed up other than the names I called? Okay. All right. Thank you. Go ahead, Tom, I'm sorry.
TOM UDE: That's all right. Thank you, Representative Lawlor and members of the Committee for this opportunity to speak. My name is Thomas Ude, Jr. and I'm a senior staff attorney with Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund.
Lambda Legal is a national organization dedicated to the, dedicated toward achieving full recognition of the civil rights, lesbian, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV throughout the Untied States.
We've been involved in, either as counsel or amicus, friend of the court, in marriage cases, in marriage recognition cases throughout the country, and I, we support Raised Senate Bill Number 899 in its entirety for a number of reasons.
One is that marriage recognition is an increasingly and relationship recognition, I should say, is an increasingly complicated matter, particularly for same sex couples.
A lot of jurisdictions recognize, some recognize marriage. Actually only two states in the United States right now. Some recognize relationships by other names and some don't recognize them at all.
And for couples, unless they're going to stay entirely within the confines of one state, they need to know that their relationship is going to be recognized elsewhere, and I think Sections 1 and 2 of this bill are an important step toward doing that.
I also want to talk about some of the other issues that this bill addresses. Some of these have already been talked about. I did submit written testimony. I'm not going to read that into the record because I think it's already there, obviously.
But what it does, and I think the title of the bill is important, because it emphasizes that this is implementing the equal protection guarantee under the State Constitution.
It's not just the Kerrigan decision although the Kerrigan decision clearly had a lot of important things to say about those rights, particularly as they affect lesbians and gay men.
It resolves issues of what are now extra rights. Right now, lesbians and gay men have a choice, civil union or marriage, which heterosexuals do not have. This clears up the law and straightens things out in that regard by resolving it, providing an orderly process for civil unions to be transitioned into marriage, recognizes and respects the relationships that existed while they were civil unions as well as marriage.
There is still one issue that I don't know how it could be addressed, which has to do with relationships such as the one that we heard about earlier today of more than 30 years where there was no opportunity for legal recognition, but there are some things that are a little beyond the scope of this bill.
It gets rid of several provisions in the law that are no longer true, which are provisions that define marriage, and it also, and this shows up in particular Section 17, which there's been a lot of discussion of.
It gets rid of provisions that the State Supreme Court said served no real function other than to stigmatize gay men and lesbians by declaring them in one way or another as being less equal, less than equal to, excuse me, heterosexuals.
Each of the provisions that are in 46a-81r are unique to gay men and lesbians. None of them exist for any of the other categories of discrimination, the other traits or characteristics that are covered by the anti-discrimination laws in this state.
It's inconsistent with the State Constitution's equal protection guarantee to continue that, and I would also submit that any additional protection beyond what is currently provided for with respect to clergy declining to perform particular ceremonies, any further extension of that that was unique to gay men and lesbians would also violate the State Constitution, and would be inconsistent with the decision in Kerrigan, which found that gay and lesbians have historically been discriminated against and that any law that singles them out for different, less favorable treatment has to be very carefully examined in order to make sure it's not just carrying forward old prejudices.
The last thing I want to mention is that I did earlier actually look up the definition of condone in Merriam-Webster's online dictionary, anyway, and what it means is to regard or treat, and then it has in parenthesis, something bad or blame worthy as acceptable, forgivable or harmless, and it's synonym is excuse.
And I think that the strength of this bill is that it clearly and unequivocally sends, clarifies, a number of statutes that have codified inequality into our law and makes them, makes gays and lesbians and heterosexuals equal.
So we urge your support and appreciate all of the work that this body has done throughout the years.
And I would just add on a personal note, I, the gay rights bill that was passed back in 1991 was, had a huge impact in my life because it allowed me to be out and be who I was when I was at work, when I was out at restaurants and other places, and in other areas of my life.
So I just want to add my voice to those who emphasize the importance of the various advances that have been made over the years.
REP. LAWLOR: Thank you, Tom. There's no question that these deliberations have the ultimate effect of sending a clear message to gay and lesbian kids around the state, and I think in many ways it seems like what some people are afraid of, but in a very real way for a lot of the kids struggling with the prejudice that's out there. The laws can sometimes be very helpful, so appreciate that.
And you know, this has been happening both in Legislatures and in the courts, and I know the organization you work with in the Lambda Legal has been in the forefront all the way in fighting for people's rights in this regard, so thank you for doing that.
Are there any other questions? Representative Dillon.
REP. DILLON: Just welcome, and as your former State Representative, although you still have the mark. I'm just glad to see you.
TOM UDE: Thank you.
REP. LAWLOR: Further questions? If not, thank you. Thank you, Tom.
TOM UDE: Thank you very much.
REP. LAWLOR: Beth Kerrigan. Beth, did you testify earlier? I heard your name come up lots of times earlier.
BETH KERRIGAN: You stole my line.
REP. LAWLOR: I'm sorry.
BETH KERRIGAN: Okay. It is, indeed, a pleasure to come before you to continue the discussion of equality in support of Senate Bill Number 899.
My name is Beth Kerrigan. My partner of 15 years is Joanne Mock, and unfortunately she left a long time ago to go back to work at The Hartford and now has since picked up the boys.
Together we are raising our two beautiful energetic seven-year-old twin sons, Fernando and Carlos who attend first grade at Whiting Lane School in West Hartford.
I probably stand before you as one of the plaintiff couples, thankful to be part of the Supreme Court case, which was successful in winning the right for same sex couples to marry in the State of Connecticut.
I am thankful and appreciative of the work of this Legislature in moving equality forward, and I trust, as Senator Kissel stated, that the Legislature would have delivered marriage equality.
That being said, I do take great pride having my name as part of such an important decision, and I think I've heard my name more times today that I probably have in my entire life.
After the decision, we received so many congratulatory comments, whether in grocery stores, walking around, cards, and I'd like to take a moment just to read one. It's from Ann Mangiola in Wethersfield, Connecticut, who I have no idea who it is, but it says, Sunday, October 12, 2008 to Joannie and Beth, as a Catholic Italian of 73 plus years, four children, 10 grandchildren, three and a half great-grandchildren, I must say I am so glad that you're not doing that stinking chicken dance at your wedding. Yahoo. God bless you and stay strong. Sincerely, Ann Marie.
The morning that we got the word that the decision was going to be announced, we discussed not telling our sons if it was not a decision in our favor, realizing that the disappointment would be hard for them. How could we possibly explain to them why their parents could not share in the tradition of marriage?
Together, Jody and I frantically read the decision on the computer, not knowing what the outcome would be, we called GLAD who confirmed we had won. Immediately, we embraced, cried, ecstatic, that finally our family had gained the recognition, the status, that all the families we knew enjoyed.
We were also relieved not to have to explain to our boys why their parents, who love and commit their lives to their well-being and happiness, couldn't be married.
We walked into the front office of Whiting Lane School to pick up the boys and share the good news with them. The staff, including the principal, showered us with heartfelt congratulations. The boys were overjoyed and asked if they were going to go get their wedding suits on, thinking that we were going to get married that day.
We headed to Hartford to celebrate. When asked after the day's events if we needed our parking lot ticket validated, I had responded we had just been validated. The Supreme Court said we were equal and deserving of the right to marry.
Words cannot express the overwhelming feelings of gratitude and joy we felt the day we witnessed Judge Silbert signing his name to a document that would allow Jody and I to join in marriage for the first time in our lives.
Later that day, our boys accompanied us to West Hartford Town Hall to apply for our marriage license, a day we'll never forget. We are both proud and thankful to live in the State of Connecticut where equality also lives.
As a committed same sex couple raising children, we urge the Legislature to support this bill in order to tie together the loose ends remaining from the Supreme Court decision. Thank you.
REP. LAWLOR: Well, thanks. And I guess, I'm not sure what questions to ask, but maybe the best one is, because so much, we've really been talking about this in the Legislature for 10 years, and just my own experience here talking to the Legislators, people's minds have changed so much, and I think you recounted a couple of stories of people who have sent you congratulatory messages, and it kind of sounds like that.
But, I mean, do you have that sense? I mean, a lot of people must talk to you about this, I mean, your co-workers, your extended family, your neighbors, people you run into. I mean, do you get a sense that people's minds are changing?
BETH KERRIGAN: Oh, without a doubt. Absolutely. And this whole case has prompted conversations that never would have taken place before, you know, in our schools, in our neighborhoods, absolutely.
REP. LAWLOR: How about that question of discrimination, because you know, one of the suggestions that's been made is we should carve out some type of an exception, where in essence that people felt like a strong religious view, that they might be able to deny you certain types of public accommodations, like for example, participate in you know, the photographer at your wedding or whatever.
Have you encountered people who said that because you're a same sex couple that they just couldn't deal with you or wouldn't deal with you? Any experiences like that?
BETH KERRIGAN: I have had experiences with respect to employment, yes.
REP. LAWLOR: Okay. I mean, can you characterize it or is that just something--
BETH KERRIGAN: What do you mean characterize it?
REP. LAWLOR: Could you just explain, because you know, there's--
BETH KERRIGAN: Well, all right. I sell long-term care insurance for a living and when the case hit the press, I lost a significant contract. The case was announced on a Thursday. On Monday my contract was severed. Since that happened, I've had people say to me, I wouldn't buy insurance from you if you were the last person on earth. I saw you on TV. I can't believe it.
So there are those. They are the exception. Quite frankly, I appreciate their honesty because I like to know where people are coming from, but I think the vast majority have been just the opposite. I think that is the exception.
REP. LAWLOR: Well, actually, that kind of conduct is perfectly legal. It's not a nice thing, but you know, you can shop where you want, I suppose, to be a customer.
I think if you flip it around and if who as your employer doing it to you or your landlord or someone like that, you know, that would be an illegal form of discrimination, so I'm just wondering, have you had that experience as a couple? Has someone denied service to you or something like that?
BETH KERRIGAN: I've never been denied service, no.
REP. LAWLOR: All right. Just curious.
BETH KERRIGAN: Sure.
REP. LAWLOR: Are there further questions? Well, if not, thank you very much. I'm sorry, Senator McLachlan.
SEN. MCLACHLAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and Miss Kerrigan, I applaud your courage in this, in the way in which your life has become an open book. Frankly, it's amazing to me how anyone can step forward and experience what you've done, you and your partner have gone through. It's just frankly, beyond comprehension how anyone would frankly would want to do that, how they would, where you've gotten the courage and the strength to do that, I applaud you for that.
I wonder, though, you heard an awful lot of discussion today and I made a comment somewhere along the way that I thought our discussion today somehow got into a ditch, and I think that some of the comments that have been shared were off the point, if you will. They weren't really focused on what we're trying to accomplish here today, like how to find the Supreme Court decision and staying focused on Senate Bill Number 899.
But we've heard, and I've asked many questions about religious liberties, and I wondered, what do you feel about, personally feel about the question of religious liberties as we try to codify the court decision.
Have you had any personal thoughts on that matter, and you know, have any of your friends or acquaintances discussed that particular issue with you?
BETH KERRIGAN: Not in depth. I would say, quite frankly, it's an honor to be part of a case that I believe is so important for civil rights.
I guess my very basic understanding of the law is the separation of church and state, and that's just the one that I'm continuing to hold strong to, that there's certainly is a place for religion, and I do respect every religious belief out there.
But when it comes to civil rights, I think we need to remove the component of religion from the decision.
SEN. MCLACHLAN: And so you draw, you personally draw a line, I assume you're not a lawyer, nor am I, because you're in the insurance business, but you draw a line between a civil right and a religious liberty, that religious liberty is part of the discussion of separate of church and state, and so therefore a religious liberty in your mind is not part of our concern?
BETH KERRIGAN: Yeah. I probably don't know enough to even comment in a way that it would make a lot of sense.
SEN. MCLACHLAN: Okay. Well, again, I thank you for being here and going through this many years that you've been doing that. I wish you the very best.
SEN. MCLACHLAN: Well, I thank you for all your work.
REP. LAWLOR: Further questions? Senator Gomes.
BETH KERRIGAN: Hi.
SEN. GOMES: I don't have any questions, but I wanted to congratulate you. Some of us up here, we argue for things we believe in, and we cast votes for things that we believe in, but you've got to admire the people that step forth out in the forefront to wage a battle. I congratulate you on your success. Thank you.
BETH KERRIGAN: Well, thank you. And I think you here were a part of that success. There's no doubt about it and again, it's an honor to be a part of something that is so important towards equality going forward.
REP. LAWLOR: Thank you. Further questions? If not, thanks a lot. Thanks for waiting.
BETH KERRIGAN: Thank you.
REP. LAWLOR: Don Shubert.
DON SHUBERT: Good evening, Representative Lawlor, members of the Committee. My name is Don Shubert. I'm the President of the Connecticut Construction Industries Association.
I'm, we're opposed to Raised Senate Bill Number 965 An Act Concerning False Claims. We've been actively engaged in contracting reform for four years now, and we've been supportive of the Legislators' efforts to reform state contracting.
However, in doing so, we want to ensure that the integrity of the contracting process is preserved as we move forward.
We're opposed to the bill because it's not a prescription for fair and efficient contracting. It's broad legal elements, its low standards of proof, high penalties and damages and generous whistle-blower provisions pose a real danger to every organization that contracts with the state or seek state reimbursement, and every employee that works for those organizations.
Government entities, private individuals, can easily abuse the act in unintended ways for improper purposes by taking advantage of the low legal standards to pursue financial gain at the expense of innocent victims, even when no false claims were committed.
My written testimony provides four examples of different types of false claims act abuse. In each one of those cases contractors were exposed to years of expensive investigations to litigation, public humiliation and risk of suspension and debarment, and they were left without recovering the costs of defending the abusive actions and left with the arduous task of repairing their reputations.
False claims act abuse is particularly dangerous in Connecticut. After many years of contracting reform, the collateral consequences of an abusive action can easily put a contractor out of business and employees out of their jobs.
Now, merely upon the filing of a complaint, even if no false claims act, no false claim was committed, a contractor faces a real exposure to losing its prequalification status, being suspended or barred from state contracting, or being found a non-responsible bidder by a state contracting agency.
It could also lead to the termination of existing contracts.
While no one believes that contractors should have the right to submit false claims to the government, the Legislature must consider whether this law aimed at a small number of people at the expense of a large number of people is out of balance, if it is necessary, and if it is an appropriate addition to the state's contracting reform measures.
If this false claims act is enacted in Connecticut, established, reputable contractors with a history of providing quality work for the public benefit, will be forced out of business and hard-working people will lose their jobs.
Thank you for your time. I'd be happy to answer any questions.
REP. LAWLOR: Thank you. We've had this, this is pretty much the same bill we've had a number of times in the past--
DON SHUBERT: Yes, it is.
REP. LAWLOR: --or were there major changes made to it?
DON SHUBERT: No, it's exactly the same.
REP. LAWLOR: Okay. Are there any further questions? If not, thanks for waiting, Don.
DON SHUBERT: Okay, thank you.
REP. LAWLOR: Darlene Capson? I'm just going to call, I've called these names before, but just in case they're here? James Farrell. Joe Maisano. Conrad Seifert. Jim Hanley. Sharon Emmons and Mary Roche. None of those people are here, right? Maureen Murphy. Ed Gavin's not here, right? Beverly Prager's not here. Jeannie Marson, Paul Brady then Minh Leu, who will be next. All right. Tom Casey's not here. Amy Miller. Don (inaudible). Mike Fitzpatrick. Dave (inaudible). None of those people are here. So Mary Elizabeth-hager Dixon will follow Minh Leu. Good evening.
MAUREEN MURPHY: Good evening, Representative Lawlor, Senator McDonald, who's not here. But I want to thank him and all the honorable members of the Committee for holding this public hearing today.
I've been before you many times before. I can't count the number of times, but my name is Maureen Murphy, and I'm a partner in the law firm of Murphy, Murphy and Nugent in New Haven, where my practice focuses primarily in the area of family law.
Just to give you some background on myself, I'm a member of the Family Commission, which is responsible for among other things, proposing revisions to the Family Court Practice Book Rules.
I'm also Co-Founder of the New Haven Academy for Child Advocacy and a member of a work group on the development of a curriculum for training guardian ad litems for family court.
I'm often appointed by the Family Court to serve as guardian ad litem in highly contested custody cases. In addition, I have presented numerous CLEs, continuing legal educations, on civil unions and the right to marry the same sex couples, and annually, Judge Lynda Munro and I train the Family Relations officers on the legal issues of civil unions and marriages for same sex couples.
For the last 20 years, a large part of my practice has been devoted to representing gay and lesbian clients and their children in family matters in family and probate court and representing same sex couples in their efforts to protect their relationships to the extent allowed by law. I'm very proud to say that I was one of the Connecticut counsel in the Kerrigan case.
Since the morning of October 10, 2008, I have witnessed an overwhelming expression of joy and gratitude from my many clients and heartfelt congratulations from judges, court personnel, colleagues and many others, who share in the joy of knowing that same sex families are accorded the same respect and dignity that all families need and deserve.
There are countless poignant stories of how the Kerrigan decision has changed the lives of many. More than once, maybe more than five times I've had to wipe back the tears from my eyes, and this is emotional for me because it is such a big issue, as I have sat across the desk from a glowing couple relating how much this means to them as they plan their long-awaited wedding.
But the most moving are the children. Those old enough to know and understand that their moms or their dads can now be married just like their friends' parents are.
Along with the joyful call, there have been many questions from couples' lawyers, even judges, about what to do with civil unions, and what to do about the current provisions in the Connecticut Statutes that are contradictory to the Kerrigan decision.
Senate Bill Number 899 resolves those many questions that are surfacing. Thousands of couples, lawyers and judges, need clarity. There must be one marital status for all couples. Most couples in my practice entered into a civil union to provide their family all the protections available under Connecticut law.
This bill affords those couples the ability to have their civil union converted into a marriage. Similarly, the repeal of, I'm sorry, this bill, I'm going to depart from it because I don't want to take any longer, but there's a couple of things that I would like to address.
This bill really clarifies for the courts, and for couples what will happen with their civil unions, with their marriages if they travel out of state, if people from out of state come into this state. People really haven't addressed that today, but I think it's a very important provision and the courts need that kind of clarity.
It prevents recognition cases from being brought here in the State of Connecticut, and I do believe that with all the great work that this Committee has done, they have a responsibility to ensure that you're preventing litigation, particularly when the State Supreme Court has given you direction.
And the State Supreme Court has given clear direction that Section 17 is mandated, and I would probably disagree with some of the previous testimony that it is not required under the Kerrigan decision.
Ten years ago in 1999, the Supreme Court invited this body to amend the adoption statutes. They didn't mandate it. They invited it, and this body did so a year later, and I'm proud to say that I was a part of that and had some voice in that, and that also was a very emotional moment for myself in these proceedings.
This is essential that this provision that is in 81r of our statutes be removed. The Supreme Court has been clear. It is a badge of discrimination. It doesn't help anybody. It only sets up a particular group of people that have been discriminated against in this state and throughout the country. It removes that, so that that badge of discrimination no longer exits.
If this body fails to do so, I believe that you're inviting further litigation because the State Supreme Court has been clear. They didn't invite the Legislature to change it. They actually said, this is a badge of discrimination, so I believe that it's absolutely necessary.
I would like to address one other issue that has come up, and that is the public officials. As a state actor, a state actor takes on a responsibility to do the bidding of the state. That person, by taking on that position, cannot decide to simply not do something because they find the person odious to their religion.
If that were the case, judges, and this Committee has brought this up all day, but I need to reinforce it, judges, justices of the peace, they're all similar in that they have a duty to perform their duties under the law and the Constitution of the State of Connecticut.
So, I again want to thank this Committee for all that you've done in the past, and I want to urge you to pass this bill, and to end the discrimination that has occurred in this state, despite the efforts that have been made by this Committee and the legislative body.
REP. LAWLOR: Thank you very much, Attorney Murphy. It's been an interesting 10 years, hasn't it?
MAUREEN MURPHY: It certainly has.
REP. LAWLOR: I want to thank you for your persistence on this as well. I know we've met in many different forums and it seems like in many ways is a culmination.
MAUREEN MURPHY: Yes, we have. And I would also like to say that I've been up here many times, and I know that there have been people on this Committee that have really struggled with this issue, and struggled with my testimony, but I have always felt like I have been treated with tremendous respect, even by those people who felt very differently than I did.
And there are people that have come up here to testify that I've debated outside of this building, and they have always treated me with respect. And as an out lesbian who's been practicing law now for along time, because I'm pretty old, I have never been discriminated against by judges or my colleagues. I have been treated with respect all of the time, and I think that that comes from this legislative body.
So again, I really want to thank you, and I apologize, but there is one other thing that I forgot to say.
I've been doing adoptions for a very long time, and so I would like to address the adoption issue that has been raised a couple of times.
There are statutes that provide that if you enter into a state contract you may not discriminate. There is one in particular, which is, I believe it's 4a-60a that says that you can't discriminate if you receive a state contract on the basis of sexual orientation.
But even before that bill passed, there were other bills regarding state contracts that would prevent discrimination.
This particular, the Kerrigan decision doesn't address adoption. This bill does not address adoption. The fact that that hasn't been raised has nothing to do with this bill. This bill won't make those adoptions more difficult or less difficult. This really has nothing to do with it. All of those laws have already been in place.
REP. LAWLOR: And as far as you know, adoption services in Connecticut abide by the law.
MAUREEN MURPHY: To be honest with you, I'm certain that I have done more same sex adoptions than anyone else in the state. I have done hundreds and hundreds of them, and I know of no one who has ever gone to Catholic Family Services to have their home study done or to have an adoption.
Now, I have no reason to believe that they're not abiding by the law if they're receiving a state contract, but I do know that they are a certified child placing agency.
So I honestly don't know the answer to that, but there have been laws to protect that from day one, since the bill passed in 2000.
REP. LAWLOR: And is that not covered by the original 1991 anti-discrimination law or not? Is it a public accommodation?
MAUREEN MURPHY: I believe that it would be a public accommodation. In addition, I believe that it comes under the state contract, and we may not discriminate in the state contract.
So I believe, as I said, I believe that this has been covered since at least 2000 when the co-parent adoption bill passed.
REP. LAWLOR: So if there was a problem we'd know about it by now. Is that what you're saying?
MAUREEN MURPHY: That's what I would say. But certainly this bill doesn't create that problem, so I really wanted to clarify that.
REP. LAWLOR: Okay. Thank you. Questions? Representative Dillon, then Senator Gomes.
MAUREEN MURPHY: Hi, Representative Dillon.
REP. DILLON: I want to thank you for all the work you've done, but also, I think there's still some things, and I wanted to ask because you raised that, and the issue of the adoptions did come up in Massachusetts, as you know, in terms of Catholic Family Services.
If I remember correctly and I may not, it's been a long day. I believe it was in 2000 that the Vatican office, I can't remember the name of it, but it's the old office of the inquisition that was headed up by the person who is now Pope Benedict, issued the directive to Catholic institutions in the United States that anyone who, any institution that holds itself out as Catholic cannot do X, Y, Z, and some of those things include awarding an honorary degree honoring anyone on the campus, and so forth.
It's interesting because under our law, for example, if you receive tips or tax money, you know or if you receive state scholarship money, it doesn't apply to a seminary, but you can go to a religious affiliated school.
The issue was really that they straddled because they don't impose doctrine. But I really don't know. It would seem to me, it's very hard to prove a counter factual whether or not an institution is refusing to permit State Legislators on campus, for example, or to grant them honorary degrees. You'd have to prove that they wanted to.
But I know that there has been an issue around trying to restrict speakers in a number of the dioceses in Connecticut I'm aware of. And you were involved in a case involving the advisor to a friend of ours who is going for his doctorate in philosophy. His wife worked for a paper here.
Do you have any views on that? Do you see that as unfinished business, or would that fall within the public accommodations act if that were to be addressed? I know you need a plaintiff here, but yeah.
MAUREEN MURPHY: I think that that probably would fall within the public accommodations, and I think it's very interesting. I would like to point back to a case that was in the State of Connecticut. It was at the CHRO and then it went into federal court and it was the State Employee Charitable Campaign was trying to determine whether the Boy Scouts could continue to receive charitable campaign funds.
And the conclusion of the CHRO was that they could not, because they could not find a non-discrimination statement.
The Boy Scouts then went into federal court to say that that was actually discrimination against them on the basis of their viewpoint, that they had a very strong viewpoint that they should be allowed to discriminate. That's not how they referred to it, but that they should be able to do that.
REP. DILLON: Free association.
MAUREEN MURPHY: And that case, the District Court and the Court of Appeals both held that it was not viewpoint discrimination, that the state has the right to determine discrimination laws and who they are protecting under their state laws and their State Constitution.
And I think that that is the balance that's been going on here today all day, and having come from a very religious Irish Catholic background, the testimony of that is that I have 58 first cousins, which is pretty Irish, I think.
That that is a balance that has to be constantly weighed and I think that what happened in the Boy Scouts case is very similar to what we're talking about here today, that you do have to weigh people's strong held beliefs with protecting civil rights, and in this case, it's protecting those civil rights that must win out.
And that is what our Supreme Court has said. By pointing to 81r, they are saying, you must get rid of this. If you don't, you're inviting litigation.
REP. DILLON: Well, just politically speaking, and the policy also, and it troubles me. We have the same issue with Plan B, and some of those directors have come out of another country, and the Church does not pay to operate the schools. It doesn't provide any financial support to the Orders of Women Religious. It provides no financial support to the hospitals.
But there seems to be this message coming out of Rome to control Catholic institutions, but the financial support isn't there, and it's a very complicated issue here when you're writing the law because in some ways they're caught in the middle.
I just say that. It's an unfortunate situation but I appreciate the work that you've done and certainly in the Albertus case.
MAUREEN MURPHY: Thank you very much.
REP. DILLON: That was one of those cases. Thanks.
MAUREEN MURPHY: Thank you, Representative Dillon.
REP. LAWLOR: Senator Gomes.
SEN. GOMES: Good evening.
MAUREEN MURPHY: Good evening, Senator Gomes.
SEN. GOMES: After congratulating Miss Kerrigan on winning the case, I thought I would be remiss if I didn't mention that you did a wonderful job of making it possible.
MAUREEN MURPHY: Thank you very much.
SEN. GOMES: And congratulations on that. Thank you.
MAUREEN MURHPY: Thank you very much. I feel like I played a very small part compared to someone like Ben Klein, who really deserves a lot of the credit, and our wonderful plaintiff.
But that would not have happened, I believe, if it weren't for this Committee, because we have had the opportunity to tell our stories here, and when you hear the stories, it does change people's minds.
And so I really do believe we have a great debt of gratitude to everyone on this Committee, whether you agree with it or not. You've given us the opportunity to talk, and I think that's very important. So thank you.
REP. LAWLOR: Further questions? Senator McLachlan.
SEN. MCLACHLAN: Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you very much for your testimony today, and your wealth of knowledge and a long time working on this issue.
I'm repeating myself. You've heard me ask this question many times, but the Senate Bill Number 899 specifically exempts clergy, and you know, many have said that it's not necessary, really, to exempt them because that's covered under the First Amendment, although that is included in the bill.
And others would say that you know, that's not balancing religious liberties in the process. And so, I wonder if you could help me with understanding a little better, your perception of the religious liberties argument, perhaps both sides, if you would, and how that is different than the civil rights argument, which I understand clearly the civil rights argument.
MAUREEN MURPHY: I think that one of the things that might be helpful is to illustrate that one of the parties that sought to intervene in the Kerrigan case early on at the trial court level were two town clerks who were opposing, wanted to intervene and be heard, because they were opposing the Kerrigan, the plaintiffs, because they believed that if we were successful in the Kerrigan case then they would have to violate their religious principles, their closely held religious principles in having to handle the marriage license to a same sex couple.
And they lost at the trial court level and withdrew before it got to the Connecticut Supreme Court. And while I don't have the amicus briefs with me but I could get some of them for you, Senator McLachlan if you wanted to see some of the arguments that were made about religious freedom.
And I think what it, it's very important to consider what a public official signs on to do, and I think that was why they withdrew. They knew they were going to lose. When you balance those closely held religious views with your duties that you've signed on for, then that becomes the real issue.
It's not even so much about protesting the civil rights of the individuals because the law has already determined that you must follow the rules that have been set forth. So that's why I believe it's a little bit different argument with Senate Bill Number 899.
Because what we're saying here is that Kerrigan has already told us what the answer is, and the answer is that you must protect and you may not discriminate. And if you're a public official, although Kerrigan doesn't talk about the public officials, it talks about what you must do, what the state must do, and they must give these individuals their marriage license.
And so the fact that it's a public official that has that closely held religious viewpoint is significant. It's very important who we're talking about balancing that.
The same way with the florist or the photographer. We have a public accommodations law that's been in existence since 1991, and even if you have a very important religious tenet that is of a major religion, if you hold yourself out to the public to provide, goods and services, you may not say I'm not going to do this for you because it violates my religious principles.
And that's what the law has been, and it is a tough, it's a very tough balance. And it's not always so easy to draw bright lines.
SEN. MCLACHLAN: But Senate Bill Number 899 does really draw a line. Let's put public officials aside for a minute, because I guess you're assuming that I'm concerned about the justices of the peace and I understand that argument. If one chooses to be a public official then they should follow the rules, and you know, I don't have any problem with that argument.
But if we are carving out, if you will, this group known as clergy, then what is, why are we doing that?
MAUREEN MURPHY: Well, that's very interesting, Senator McLachlan, and one of the things that I have heard for years is that you can't have same sex couples be given the right to marry because then religious groups, priests, reverends, that they would be forced, rabbis, they would be forced to marry now.
And I believe that a very good reason for putting that in there is to clarify that this is not going to infringe on any clergy's rights to follow their religion.
You're absolutely right. The First Amendment would require that anyway. But people out there don't know that. I can't tell you the number of times I've been asked if a priest now would have to perform a same sex wedding. It is a constant question, and I wouldn't be surprised if you've received emails that have said that that would be the result of the Kerrigan decision.
It clearly is not. So putting it in there only clarifies that this decision does not infringe on the clergy's right to perform religious and civil marriages.
SEN. MCLACHLAN: Thank you. And one more question. I had sort of a lengthy discussion with Mr. Klein about Section 17 and language being stripped from state statute in Senate Bill Number 899, and his comment, which still is frankly confusing to me, that the language really meant nothing.
It was a political statement at the time to facilitate other legislative action in 1991, and that it had no bearing on the civil rights. It was irrelevant and it should be taken out.
And I still don't understand that argument, so I'm going to try one more time with a specialist in this field, to try to tell me, inform me, so that I can understand it as a lay person.
Why is it that a piece of Connecticut law exists but doesn't mean anything, and now we want to take it out and it won't mean anything that we took it out? It doesn't make any sense to me.
MAUREEN MURPHY: I understand your confusion.
SEN. MCLACHLAN: Or the legislative intent of taking it out won't mean anything.
MAUREEN MURPHY: I see it a little bit differently. As I just said to you when you asked me the question about why are we singling out clergy if the First Amendment does that anyway?
And I gave you what I think is a reason that we might want to do that, is because there's a lot of confusion out there about that and I think it clarifies that.
I think that that was 81r was, rather than so much to appease people, and that it was meaningless. It actually clarified that this gay rights law didn't mean these things, and the reason that it was put in there, I don't want to say it wasn't a compromise, but the reason it was put in there is because people were saying, if you pass this gay rights law, then that's going to mean that we have to teach homosexuality as a, what is it, a positive light, that is hold back lifestyle in a positive light.
And so that was really a declaration. But this isn't what this bill is doing. But in doing so as the Kerrigan court said, you're actually giving them a badge of discrimination. You're actually holding them op as less than, and I don't believe that that was the intention of the statute. I believe that it was more as a reassurance that this isn't what the gay rights bill is doing.
It's not intended to create marriage for same sex couples. That was true in 1991. The gay rights bill wasn't intended to create same sex marriage.
And so, it was really a declaration of what the bill is not, and I don't believe anybody intended to discriminate against same sex couples or gay people by putting those provisions in.
And all of us have benefited by the gay rights bill that was passed in 1991. We are one of the first states to have that. I think there were seven in the country.
So it really wasn't meaningless, but it was out there to explain to people what this isn't, but there's no reason for that any more. It didn't have the effect of telling school districts that they couldn't teach homosexuality. It didn't say that they couldn't teach homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle.
It didn't do any of those things. It merely stated that's not what the gay rights bill is. Does that help folks, because I don't know?
SEN. MCLACHLAN: Well, it's, you are in agreement with your colleague on this issue. I'm getting the same message, the same response, and I've just got to try and process it. I must say, I'm still confused by it, but I will continue to study it and I thank you for your feedback.
MAUREEN MURPHY: If there's anything I can do to be helpful. When my son graduated from high school he went to Hand High School in Madison. There would have, he would not talk a whole lot about having a lesbian mother because in the Madison School District at that time it would just not have been something that would have been real acceptable.
And a few years later, I was teaching at Children from the Shadows, which is now called True Colors and it was, Children from the Shadows was a conference on gay views and there were lots of school districts that would send their advisors and their gay, straight alliance students there.
And I saw over a period of a couple of years, from the high school that my son had gone to, and he graduated in 1995, that in that high school where there was no such thing as a gay straight alliance, that within a couple of years there were 30 students. There were 15 students at the conference. It was amazing how many changes there were.
And that in and of itself was a statement that homosexuality is an acceptable lifestyle. That's not what they were teaching But they were saying, we are people, too, and if your parents or if you are gay, then it is acceptable. You shouldn't be the discriminated against.
But all of that happened under this provision, and taking it out only gets rid of this discriminatory language that is there now, that Kerrigan has said, this is discrimination, and I believe if we don't remove it, that there will be lawsuits to remove it.
SEN. MCLACHLAN: And just finally, you're saying that we will have litigation or lawsuits if it's not removed, and others think that we're going to have them if it doesn't stay, or at least parts of it don't stay.
So, do you think we're going to have lawsuits either way? Is that sort of what I'm hearing?
MAUREEN MURPHY: Well, as a lawyer, I'd never want to predict that they're aren't going to be lawsuits, but because I think that's sort of what keeps us in business.
But what I would say is that anybody could bring a lawsuit, but the law of the State of Connecticut has been articulated by Kerrigan. Kerrigan has pointed to this particular statute and said it's discrimination.
I think that this body, in my opinion, and as a lawyer, we must listen to that and fix it. Kerrigan was not about 81r. It was about marriage.
SEN. MCLACHLAN: Right.
MAUREEN MURPHY: And that's all that it had to take care of. But it looked to 81r and said, this is an example of discrimination in our statutes and I believe that that is what we have to list to.
It doesn't mean we won't have lawsuits, but we have to listen to the Supreme Court.
SEN. MCLACHLAN: Thank you very much.
MAUREEN MURPHY: Thank you.
REP. LAWLOR: Thank you. Are there other questions? If not, thanks again.
MAUREEN MURPHY: Thank you very much.
REP. LAWLOR: Minh Leu. Go ahead, I'm sorry.
MINH LEU: My name is Minh Leu, and I'm currently a junior at Hall High School in West Hartford, and I'm here to support Senate Bill Number 899.
About three years ago I became disturbed when I learned that my state still had discrimination written in its laws targeted toward its gay residents. I have learned in history class that separate is not equal, so I wanted to help change the discriminatory laws so that gay and lesbian couples can marry instead of only having civil unions.
Because of the historic Supreme Court case Brown vs. the Board of Education, I can say that I am proud to go to a Connecticut public high school, I not only learned about diversity in school. I see it everywhere. There are people of every race and religion who speak dozens of different languages and who come from all corners of the world, all in one school.
In my experience, it has been extremely beneficial for schools to teach laws instead of hate, and to teach diversity instead of uniformity.
However, there is no part of Senate Bill Number 899 that would require schools to teach anything. That will continue to be left up to the local boards of education.
Thus, I am puzzled to see that anti-equality advocates are here to advocate for schools to disregard homosexuality as a diversity, as part of American culture.
So, in order to help change these laws, I began to volunteer at the statewide organization lobbying for gay rights, Love Makes A Family, during the summer of 2007.
There I came in contact with all sorts of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. I learned that these people are nothing like what the anti-gay community made them out to be, and learned that these people are exactly like everyone else. Some are nice. Some are not. Some had kids. Some are single. Some had a master's degree from Yale, and some had none at all.
I had an epiphany. I realized how wrong it was for my state to deny such a fundamental and important civil right to such a large group of people. I experienced this compelling feeling to go out in my community and to change this blatant discrimination.
To help do this, I traveled to towns and cities all over Connecticut such as Derby, Farmington, Hartford, Middletown, Portland and West Hartford to speak with hundreds of different people and to get hundreds of signatures for a pro-gay-marriage petition.
I was surprised to see that people of every race, socio-economic status, age, gender, religion and creed all agree that gay marriage should be legal in Connecticut.
Through my experience working with these people from all over the state, I gained the hope that my Legislators would go along with the consensus and pass a gay marriage Senate bill.
I am pleased that the Connecticut Supreme Court changed the discriminatory laws on October 10, 2008. A majority of justices ruled that it was unconstitutional to deny gays the right to marry and on November 1, 2008, the first gay marriage licenses were handed out to gay couples, and surprisingly the apocalypse has not come yet.
Please support Senate Bill Number 899, and thank you so much for listening to me speak today.
REP. LAWLOR: Thanks, Mr. Leu. Are you still in school?
MINH LEU: Yes. I'm a senior.
REP. LAWLOR: Where do you go to school?
MINH LEU: At Hall High School.
REP. LAWLOR: Oh, cool. Very good. Going on to college?
MINH LEU: Yes, I hope to go.
REP. LAWLOR: Okay, and thank you for the work you've done. I'm sure it's been a great learning experience.
MINH LEU: It definitely has been.
REP. LAWLOR: And you lucked out a little bit. You're on the end of this curve, you know, this learning curve, but I hope you'll share with your friends and people in the future the experience you had here in Connecticut, because other states are about to go through a similar process. Sometimes they'll look for some inspiration, some support, some strength, to see that all things are possible and you can help spread the word. Is that okay?
MINH LEU: Yeah, it kind of sounds great.
REP.LAWLOR: Are there further questions? If not, thank you very much.
MINH LEU: Thank you very much.
REP. LAWLOR: Next is John Friedlander. Oh, I'm sorry, I skipped over Mary elizabeth. I apologize. Mary elizabeth-hager Dixon. Is Mr. Friedlander still here?
JOHN FRIEDLANDER: Yes.
REP. LAWLOR: Okay. He'll be next.
MARY ELIZABETH-HAGER DIXON: Good evening. My name is Mary elizabeth-hager Dixon. I come before you to today to share my thoughts, concerns and ideas related to the issue of same sex marriage.
The process of considering Senate Bill Number 899 seems to be an opportunity for us here in Connecticut to look at the issue of the legal union of two adults in a comprehensive way.
I testified on this issue as you know, Chairman Lawlor, in 2005 and 2007. I believe there are three crucially important constitutional principles and guarantees related to, and involved in, this issue.
The first, affirmed ever so narrowly, and after 17 long months of deliberation, but affirmed last October, the constitutional principle and guarantee so crucially important, precious and dear, equality before the law for all, including legally formalized contract and union between two adults, setting aside the use of the word marriage for now.
Second, equal respect before the law for the full spectrum of our religious diversity.
Third, and well established, time-honored, precious foundational constitutional principles of the separation of church and state.
Due to the fact that time doesn't allow a longer read, I would like to briefly like to read some excerpts from the testimonies I presented to this Committee in public hearings on the subject in 2005 and 2007, and if time allows, a few brief segments from several other inclusions and the compilation they are part of.
REP. LAWLOR: Can I just ask. Are we talking about really long excerpts?
MARY ELIZABETH-HAGER DIXON: I don't think so.
REP. LAWLOR: We try to limit people to about three minutes.
MARY ELIZABETH-HAGER DIXON: I'm fading. So anyway--
REP. LAWLOR: Because we do have a transcript of all of this, really.
MARY ELIZABETH-HAGER DIXON: That's what I was going to mention. A few brief segments from several other inclusions and the compilation they are part of, and which I submitted today concerning same sex marriage and civil union originally dated May 7, 2007, knowing full well I'm not going to beat the bell, I bid my written testimony in full to the Committee's attention for at least a quick legislative read.
I have felt for a long time that homosexual couples should have, boy that went quick. It went much quicker.
Well anyway, let me just close by saying the testimony is there, the previous testimony.
I have deep, deep and grave concern for the disrespect of our conservative brothers and sisters. My personal theology is very liberal, but I cannot tell you, and it was evidenced here in this hearing room today, the disrespect and derision, the mockery aimed at conservative people and people of less sophisticated thought and expression. I was appalled.
And I find that not only here, it's terrible it's here, but it's out there, too. And I really do believe, as you know, that the reason that this movement has had the effect to the degree it has, because it has been forwarded and pushed by established members and organizations, clergy of liberal theology, and I still believe, and we haven't had that opportunity to talk about the possibility of a compromise and follow the process such as they have in France and other countries.
And that would totally eliminate the problem of the, oh, the justices of the peace because it would be a simple, formal contractual agreement that's signed in a civic setting. And then if you want to have a sanctification in a sacred place, fine. Or if you are an atheist or an agnostic, you go to a park or a country club and you have a friend, or you just share, exchange your vows with each other.
But it just really, it grieves me every time I encounter it, and the discrimination and the disrespect of more conservative brothers and sisters of faith and agnostics and atheists.
So, it's been a long day. You have my, the compilation I put together of my thoughts and my testimony, and I appreciate the opportunity to speak and I really think that Connecticut, because I guess this is not going to happen here, the possibility of having a compromise approach.
We could have done such a wonderful service for the rest of the country, because the general populous that gets counted in these polls, it's not where the polls say. I encounter it all the time. I mean, I'm on the bus. I'm, I have a very unusual life, and I walk with a great variety of people, and it's the attitude toward this is not what the polls say. They are incorrect.
I just encountered yesterday an orthodox clergy person. He had a collar on. And so I asked him, you know, this topic was on my mind, and I broached it gently and circumspectly, and the bottom line was, he said, yeah, when I have to fill out those forms for the state I don't feel comfortable. I really don't like acting as an agent of the state.
So I just share those thoughts with you, Mike.
REP. LAWLOR: Well, thank you very much. Are there any questions? If not, thank you. Next is John Friedlander.
JOHN FRIEDLANDER: Thank you, Chairman Lawlor. My name is John Friedlander. I neglected to put my wife's name on the list, a mistake for which I will probably pay the price later this evening, but my wife Debbie would like to start now.
DEBBY FRIEDLANDER: Hi, I'm Debby, Debby Friedlander. I'm a realtor, photographer and a justice of the peace. As a part of realtor's commitment to uphold the state and federal laws, we are sworn not to discriminate on the basis of any of the protected classes, including sexual preference.
The idea that judges, justices of the peace and photographers would be held to a lesser standard for services. Thank you.
JOHN FRIEDLANDER: It's been many years and it's been a pleasure coming back here. I'm happy to say we're going to stop meeting this way. That will be a pleasure.
Life's greatest lessons are taught by the smallest actions in the simplest times, the breaking of bread when a neighbor is hungry, a kind word when a friend is feeling low, a warm greeting for a stranger alone.
We are all brothers and sisters together, our differences trivial compared to the ways we are the same.
When terrible accidents befall us, we come together to grieve. When great wars afflict us, we long together for peace. And when great issues divide us, we search together for wisdom to guide us.
In the great stories, which lift us up, brotherhood topples racism, charity overcomes selfishness, patient wins over haste and love always overcomes hatred.
And in the stories that make us better brothers and sisters, it is actions, which speak louder than words. The deed carries the lesson, not the speech.
Hating the sin but loving the sinner is empty posturing when the result is a brother or sister abandoned. Denying one's prejudice while urging others to practice it or permit it by law is transparent hypocrisy and obvious to all but those in denial.
One day, each of us will face our eternity and we will ask ourselves if we have lived a good enough life. When that time comes, we will know most certainly if we spoke of love but did not act in love. We will be judged accordingly.
Here in this house of law, our business is to bring the judgment of the Supreme Court of Connecticut into the day-to-day actions of our civil society. Words must convert to deeds.
Let us remember as we deliberate that this is the United States of America, founded on among many other uniquely powerful, fundamental and self-evident principles, the freedom of and if we so choose, the freedom from religion.
Now, I presume that there are as many versions of God in this room as there are hearts beating blood, but as we congregate in this great house of law, we determine the laws of our civil society, not the rules of any faith.
When our work here is done, we will know among other things, how our taxes can be filed, how our estates can be settled, how our medical care can be managed by our chosen loved ones, and how our employers may not discriminate against us.
What will not be addressed here in this house of law is how we may relate to our chosen saviours. Our private relationship with our own God is as our founding