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

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.