Connecticut will recognize civil unions and possibly domestic partnerships from other states and foreign countries when a new law allowing civil unions takes effect here Oct. 1.
But Attorney General Richard Blumenthal (search) said Tuesday that Connecticut will not recognize same-sex marriages from neighboring Massachusetts because the Connecticut legislature has defined marriage as between a man and a woman.
"Civil unions performed in other states are entitled to full faith and credit in Connecticut. ... Out-of-state same-sex marriages have no legal force and effect here," Blumenthal wrote in a legal opinion requested by the state's Department of Public Health (search), which administers marriage licenses.
Married same-sex couples will, however, be able to enter into civil unions in Connecticut.
Currently, Vermont is the only other state that allows civil unions. Massachusetts is the only state that allows same-sex marriages. Several states, including California, New Jersey and Maine, allow some form of same-sex domestic partnership.
Blumenthal said Connecticut will recognize the California partnerships but needs to review the laws in New Jersey, Maine and other states and countries to see how they match up with Connecticut's civil unions law.
Gay rights activists said Blumenthal's ruling emphasizes the need to replace civil unions with full marriage rights. Under Connecticut's law, couples in civil unions get all the same rights and privileges as married heterosexual couples but are not permitted to marry.
Mary Bonauto, a lawyer with Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, or GLAD (search), said Massachusetts couples who work in Connecticut will have to ignore their marriages and get civil unions to have the same legal protections.
She said, for instance, that a Massachusetts resident might be barred from a hospital if his or her same-sex spouse were in an accident in Connecticut.
"They've already been married and I think many people find it degrading to pretend that their marriage doesn't exist," said Bonauto, whose group successfully challenged marriage laws in Massachusetts. "They shouldn't have to forfeit their marriage license at the Connecticut border."
Same-sex marriage opponents said Blumenthal's ruling points to the need for a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Brian Brown, executive director of the Family Institute of Connecticut (search), predicted gay rights advocates will challenge Connecticut's definition of marriage as between a man and a woman.
"What we need is a state constitutional amendment making it clear so that the courts are limited," he said. "We need to allow the people of Connecticut to vote directly on this question and not allow a few judges to redefine marriage to us, especially when civil unions were sold to the public as a compromise."