State Senator Michael McLachlan Casts Vote in Opposition to SB 899

April 24, 2009

Hartford, CT – State Senator Michael McLachlan (R-Danbury) cast a vote last week in opposition to SB 899: An Act Implementing the Guarantee of Equal Protection Under the Constitution of the State for Same Sex Couples. The bill, which passed in the Senate by a vote of 28 to 7, extends the protections under law given to married heterosexual couples to same-sex couples by codifying the state Supreme Court’s decision in Kerrigan v. Department of Public Health. The bill does so by repealing current law which defines marriage as solely between a man and woman and declares that the public position of the State of Connecticut is no longer limited to marriage between a man and a woman. Prior to the Kerrigan decision, gay and lesbian couples in Connecticut were able to obtain civil union status. SB 899 repeals the civil union statutes effective October 1, 2010.

“While I fully recognize and respect the desire of those in same-sex relationships to express and celebrate their union, I do not believe their personal choices should be imposed by the courts on those with strongly-held religious beliefs to the contrary,” said Senator McLachlan. “The decision on this emotional issue made by the Supreme Court in October, 2008 allowing same-sex marriage was a decision that should instead have been placed in the hands of the residents of Connecticut and by extension the General Assembly, not the other way around.”

The bill passed with several amendments which include certain provisions to protect religious organizations and nonprofits by allowing them to determine whether or not they wish to provide goods, services and other privileges to same-sex couples. The bill offers protection to these groups by stipulating any refusal to provide goods and services based on religious beliefs will not be grounds for any civil claim or cause of action. These church-affiliated groups are allowed protections under the amendment as long as the specific services receive no funding from the state or federal government.

“I am pleased that the bill includes language protecting the discretion of church-affiliated groups however I am disappointed that it stops there,” said Senator McLachlan. “Just as healthcare professionals have a right to refuse to perform an abortion based upon his or her religious beliefs, the same should apply to regular citizens and businesses. People should have the freedom to choose and conscientiously object to any behavior to which they are morally opposed.”

Senator McLachlan also introduced an amendment on SB 899 to extend the religious freedom protections under the law to churches and other organizations which may not be qualified under the tax code cited in the bill.

Senator McLachlan said: “I wanted to be sure all churches and other fraternal organizations like the Knights of Columbus and the Ancient Order of Hibernians, that may not fall under this section of the IRS code, are protected under the law but unfortunately, my amendment was defeated.”

“The reality is that SB 899 passed through the General Assembly and is to be upheld and respected,” said Senator McLachlan. “However, as I see it, SB 899 is more than just a codification of Kerrigan. It leaves too many unanswered questions and does not provide adequate protection of religious freedoms as I see it. There are many people in our state who did not ask for this ruling nor this legislation and who I believe deserved a more public debate on the issue rather than being subjected to a ruling from the Supreme Court.”