HARTFORD, Conn. (CN) – The Connecticut Supreme Court overturned the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, saying the state failed to justify why same-sex couples should be denied the same right to marry that heterosexuals enjoy.
“We conclude that, in light of the history of pernicious discrimination faced by gay men and lesbians, and because the institution of marriage carries with it a status and significance that the newly created classification of civil unions does not embody, the segregation of heterosexual and homosexual couples into separate institutions constitutes a cognizable harm,” Justice Richard Palmer wrote.
The state high court ruled 4-3 that Connecticut cannot deny same-sex couples the right to marry without a better explanation than the preservation of marriage as an institution between a man and a woman.
“Although we acknowledge that many legislators and many of their constituents hold strong personal convictions with respect to preserving the traditional concept of marriage as a heterosexual institution,” Palmer wrote, “such beliefs, no matter how deeply held, do not constitute the exceedingly persuasive justification required to sustain a statute that discriminates on the basis of a quasi-suspect classification.”
The majority sided with eight same-sex couples who challenged the state’s argument that civil unions afford the same benefits as marriage.
“Interpreting our state constitutional provisions in accordance with firmly established equal protection principles leads inevitably to the conclusion that gay persons are entitled to marry the otherwise qualified same-sex partner of their choice,” Palmer wrote.
With this ruling, Connecticut joins Massachusetts and California as the only states to allow same-sex marriage.
Justices Norcott, Katz and Harper joined the majority opinion, and Justices Borden, Vertefeuille and Zarella dissented.