On November 12, 2008, Connecticut issued its first marriage licenses for same-sex couples. In its 4-3 Kerrigan et al. v. Commissioner of Public Health et al. decision on October 28, 2008, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that limiting marriage between a man and woman violated the state’s constitution, therefore making same-sex marriage legal in Connecticut.
On behalf of seven (later eight) same-sex couples, Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (today, GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders) filed the lawsuit back in 2004 after the state denied marriage licenses to the couples in Madison, Connecticut. The plaintiffs argued that denying their right to marriage violated the equal protection provisions of Connecticut’s constitution.
In 2005, Connecticut became one of the first states to grant civil unions for same-sex couples, hoping to strike a compromise between gay and lesbian activists and others with religious or traditional marriage beliefs. After the state legalized civil unions, the plaintiffs amended their lawsuit, but the court ultimately ruled against them in 2006. On appeal in 2008, however, the Connecticut Supreme Court found that civil unions did not provide the same rights and privileges as marriages for same-sex couples and Connecticut became the third state to allow same-sex marriage, behind Massachusetts and California. (California voters rescinded that right in November 2008, however.)
The decision elicited both jubilation and anger throughout the state. Activists, advocacy organizations, families, and individuals celebrated a victory towards equality and many same-sex couples began planning their weddings, while others—both in-state and out-of-state—redoubled their efforts to prevent same-sex marriage equality. According to the Hartford Courant, over the year that same-sex marriage became legal in Connecticut, at least 1,746 same-sex marriages occurred.
In 2009, the Connecticut General Assembly passed Public Act No. 09-13, “An Act Implementing the Guarantee of Equal Protection Under the Constitution of the State for Same Sex Couples,” defining marriage in the gender-neutral terms of occurring between two people. Same-sex marriage did not become legal in all 50 states until 2015 when the US Supreme Court decided Obergefell v. Hodges.