Connecticut’s Best Kept Secret Could Be Its Religious Liberty Exemptions Against Same-Sex Marriage

Anthony Devlin/PA Wire URN:21012772 (Press Association via AP Images)
Anthony Devlin/PA Wire URN:21012772 (Press Association via AP Images)

Connecticut is generally viewed as one of the most liberal states in the nation. Though it became only the third state to recognize same-sex marriage, the religious liberty exemptions amendment immediately added to that law leads the head of the Family Institute of Connecticut (FIC) to claim it is his state’s best-kept secret.

In April of 2009, the Connecticut state legislature amended a law to codify same-sex marriage to read that churches and religious groups cannot be forced “to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods or privileges” to a same-sex marriage, or be forced to “provide adoption, foster care or social services” to a same-sex marriage.

Actually, same-sex marriage never had an easy time of it in Connecticut, having been defeated every year it was voted on by the state legislature. Nevertheless, in 2008, it was imposed upon the Constitution State by a 4-3 vote of the Connecticut Supreme Court in Kerrigan v. Commissioner of Public Health, with Justice Peter T. Zarella observing in his dissent that it is in the interest of society to protect marriage between one man and one woman because it is essential for procreating and raising new citizens.

Writing at the Republican-American last year, Peter Wolfgang, executive director of FIC, reviewed the events surrounding the decision and its aftermath, explaining that “few know the state’s pro-family movement won a stunning victory six months” after the state’s highest court ushered in same-sex marriage.

Wolfgang explained FIC and its allies knew that after the state Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex marriage, attempting to stop a bill in the legislature that would “codify” what the court had already essentially legislated, would not repeal same-sex marriage, since marriage licenses were already being issued.

“Our goal, instead, was to use the codification bill to restore the religious liberties whose continued existence was now in doubt because of the court’s ruling,” he said. “What we could not know was how some of our biggest foes inadvertently would help us.”

As the New York Times reported in March of 2009, the Judiciary Committee in Connecticut was chaired at the time by two openly gay same-sex marriage champions: state Sen. Andrew McDonald, now a justice of the state Supreme Court, and former state Rep. Michael Lawlor, now serving in Gov. Dannel Malloy’s (D-WFP) administration as undersecretary for criminal justice policy and planning at the Office of Policy and Management.

According to the Times:

Through their work in the committee, Mr. Lawlor and his fellow co-chairman, State Senator Andrew J. McDonald, Democrat of Stamford, infuriated Roman Catholics and surprised colleagues this month by scheduling a public hearing for March 11 on a bill that would have forcibly reorganized Catholic parishes in the name of financial accountability.

Denounced by the state’s Catholic bishops as an unconstitutional and politically motivated intrusion into church affairs — Bishop William E. Lori of the Bridgeport Diocese called it payback for the bishops’ opposition to gay marriage — the bill stirred up an already difficult session and reinforced the judiciary committee’s reputation as a magnet for controversy.

Mr. Lawlor and Mr. McDonald abruptly canceled the hearing in the face of overwhelming opposition, including a rally that drew several thousand opponents to the Capitol the day the hearing was to be have been held. The bill was killed by a unanimous vote of the committee on March 19.

Both the Times and Wolfgang reported that by the time McDonald and Lawlor withdrew their bill to force financial accountability on the Catholic Church by the state, they had already done serious damage to any attempts to curtail religious liberty in Connecticut.

“McDonald’s and Lawlor’s apparent hostility to religious liberty was now way above the radar,” wrote Wolfgang. “And it gave us the momentum we needed.”

On the heels of the tempest the two lawmakers had created, FIC proceeded to place full-page ads in all 16 of the state’s daily newspapers, warning of the additional intrusion into religious liberty presented by the same-sex marriage codification measure.

“In the end, our religious-liberty amendment was so popular, even McDonald and Lawlor felt compelled to vote for it,” wrote Wolfgang. “Thanks to the law we passed in 2009, churches and religious organizations still have liberties that no longer exist in other states with same-sex marriage.”

He provided the following examples:

The Methodist beachfront pavilion in New Jersey that lost tax-exempt status and had to pay a fine for not allowing itself to be rented out for a same-sex ceremony, Catholic Charities of Boston giving up its adoption service rather than be forced by the government to place children in homes with same-sex married couples — these things have not occurred in Connecticut these last five years because of the 2009 law.

While Wolfgang believes his organization helped to save the religious liberty of churches and religious organizations, he admits the fight for individuals – the bakers, photographers, florists, etc. who have been forced to violate their religious beliefs in the face of punishment by the government – continues.

“Family Institute of Connecticut continues to monitor any attacks on religious liberty and parental rights that have resulted from same-sex marriage and to do all we can to fight for our first freedom, the free exercise of our faith,” Wolfgang said in a statement to Breitbart News.


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