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Connecticut Ruling Could Lead To Retroactive Marriage Rights For Same-Sex Couples

A July 16th Connecticut Supreme Court ruling is adding to the debate on whether same-sex marriage rights should be applied retroactively, reports ABC News.

Charlotte Stacey and Margaret MullerThe case involved Margaret Mueller and Charlotte Stacey, who had a civil union in Connecticut in 2005 and got married in Massachusetts in 2008 after 23 years together, shortly before Connecticut approved gay marriage.

Mueller was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2001 but the couple learned in 2005 that the diagnosis was wrong and Mueller actually had appendix cancer. Stacey said her wife’s death could have been prevented if the original diagnosis had been correct.

The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Stacey may sue for medical malpractice over the loss of her wife's companionship and income, even though that right was limited to heterosexual married couples at the time of their marriage.

Lower courts had ruled that Stacey could not sue because only married couples had that right and Stacey and Mueller did not marry until 2008.

Although no states that allow same-sex marriage have made their laws retroactive, many believe that inheritance laws and other benefits that had been available only to heterosexual married couples should be extended to same-sex partners.

While the Connecticut court did not make its 2008 same-sex marriage ruling retroactive, it expanded common law to give gay people the right to sue over the death of a partner.

Speaking to Associated Press, Ben Klein, a lawyer for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders in Boston, said:

"Because there was a time when many same-sex couples couldn't marry, they were subjected to a whole range of unfair treatment under the law and this decision is really a great step forward. We have these remnants from the past that the court, at least in this one instance, has rectified."

However, some groups that oppose same-sex marriage are also against making marriage rights retroactive.  Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council, said "Connecticut has no obligation to pay reparations to homosexuals for having maintained the natural definition of marriage until 2008."

Same-sex marriage is now legal in 19 states and the District of Columbia. Gay marriage bans that have been overturned in states including Utah continue to make their way through the courts.

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Comments

  1. Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council, said "Connecticut has no obligation to pay reparations to homosexuals for having maintained the natural definition of marriage until 2008."

    Correct me if I am wrong, but wasn't the whole DOMA/Windsor case about retroactive adjustment of the definition of marriage at the federal level? And didn't "the homosexuals" win?

    What part of the memo are they not getting?

    Posted by: edude | Jul 18, 2014 10:44:58 AM


  2. "no states that allow same-sex marriage have made their laws retroactive..."
    I'm not sure what that means, but when marriage equality came to Illinois, those who had entered civil unions became able to have the unions converted into marriages, with the date of the marriages retroactive to the date they entered civil unions.

    Posted by: john patrick | Jul 18, 2014 10:49:40 AM


  3. Reparations?
    I should sue to get the money it cost me to break up with my ex...because we weren't married.

    Posted by: Qj201 | Jul 18, 2014 11:48:43 AM


  4. There should be a time window during which both individuals in a same-sex marriage can make their marriages retroactive back to when the government was violating their right to marry, perhaps based on evidence of some other commitment ceremony, or domestic partnership.

    But not all couples are going to want to do this, and may say they didn't intend to get married until it became legal.

    Posted by: Randy | Jul 18, 2014 5:18:15 PM


  5. @JIM REDMOND, does FRC have some special connection to this case—other than an opinion—that qualifies them to comment? Were they litigants in the case? Are their marriages affected by the ruling? Does their expertise shed light on the facts of the case? Do they decide or implement family policy in Connecticut? Of all the opinions that one could report, why single out FRC's and elevate it to a status on par with the actual judges and plaintiffs in the case? I realize that you're just relaying what ABC News reported, but there's no reason to repeat their report (and the false balance therein) uncritically.

    Posted by: JJ | Jul 18, 2014 8:18:45 PM


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