A court case that sought to make Connecticut only the second state to establish civil unions of same-sex couples was dismissed because of the death of the plaintiff.
Two Connecticut citizens, Glen Rosengarten and Peter Downes, entered into a civil union in Vermont on Dec. 31, 2000, then returned to their home state where the relationship apparently ended, said Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit legal group that filed a motion in the case to support the traditional recognition of marriage.
Rosengarten filed a motion to dissolve the civil union in Connecticut. He first sought to have Connecticut recognize the Vermont civil union as a binding marriage so it then could be terminated under his own state’s law.
However, Rosengarten died shortly after Liberty Counsel filed its motion to intervene.
“Mr. Rosengarten’s death ended his challenge to traditional marriage in Connecticut,” said Mat Staver, president and general counsel of Liberty Counsel. “While our prayers are with his family during this time, we must recognize the end of his lawsuit that sought to bring the destructive Vermont civil union system to Connecticut.”
Staver argued that the recognition of civil unions by Connecticut would have required the state’s businesses to pay additional benefits to civil union partners and force employers to finance a lifestyle to which many object on religious grounds.
He called it a “back door attempt by the advocates of same-sex marriage to validate the Vermont civil union” that “was a direct threat to traditional marriage and violated religious freedom.”
‘Come to Vermont’
In April 2000, then-Vermont Gov. Howard Dean signed the country’s only civil-union law, which did not use the term marriage but essentially gave couples all of the benefits of traditional marriage. Dean is now a candidate for the Democratic party’s presidential nomination in 2004.
Since then, many Vermont government agencies and businesses have taken advantage of the opportunity posed by homosexuals who have come to the state from around the country for a civil union.
Some hotels and resorts in Vermont offer special packages for same-sex couples, including a “civil union ceremony with a local officiate.”
The Vermont law spurred many states to pass legislation that specifies marriage as only between a man and a woman, and Congress has considered a federal “Defense of Marriage Act.”
Last week, the Justice Department granted compensation from a federal fund created for victims of the Sept. 11 attacks to a woman, Peggy Neff, who lost her female partner in the attack on the Pentagon.
The state of New York, unlike Virginia, made non-married victims of the attack on the World Trade Center eligible for benefits.
“This is the first time that we are aware of that the federal government has specifically recognized that someone in a gay relationship should receive compensation for the loss of a partner,” said Human Rights Campaign spokesman David M. Smith.
However, Smith said the situation highlights the “gross inequity” in America’s family laws, as homosexuals are not allowed to marry.
“Without laws recognizing gay families, they are extremely vulnerable to these types of tragedies,” Smith said. “To receive emergency benefits in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, Peg had to surmount obstacles, and, in at least one case, rejection from the state of Virginia, which other families never had to consider.”