CBNNews.com - Connecticut's highest court ruled Friday that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry, making the state the third in the country to legalize gay marriage.
The divided court ruled 4-3 that the state's civil unions law does not provide gay and lesbian couples with the same rights as heterosexual couples. Denying them the right to marry violated the state's equal rights protection, the court's chief justices said.
Can the Connecticut government do anything to overturn this ruling? Click play to hear more from Liberty Counsel Founder Matt Staver.
"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," Justice Richard N. Palmer wrote in the majority opinion.
Justice Peter T. Zarella disagreed, saying that there is no fundamental right to same-sex marriage, and the court's majority failed to discuss the purpose of marriage laws. He said that purpose is to "privilege and regulate procreative conduct."
"The ancient definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman has its basis in biology, not bigotry," he said. "If the state no longer has an interest in the regulation of procreation, then that is a decision for the legislature or the people of the state and not this court."
Christian Community Reacts
Reaction from the Christian community was sharp and quick.
"It's outrageous and shameful that the Connecticut Supreme Court took it upon itself to legislate from the bench," Family Research Council's Tony Perkins. "This radical redefinition of marriage will have severe consequences for children, families, religious liberties, businesses and every facet of society as we know it."
"This decision puts marriage at risk all across the nation and highlights the need for a Marriage Protection Amendment to the U.S. Constitution," Perkins said. FRC attorneys had helped in the case.
Peter Wolfgang, with the The Family Institute in Hartford, told WTNH-TV that the court's decision is a violation of democratic principles.
"This ruling is an outrage," Wolfgang said. "The judges -- four unelected judges -- have essentially said 'No, you no longer have a self government in Connecticut, you no longer have democracy. You will behave as your robed masters, your philosopher kings. We'll decide all the really all the really big questions for you,' and that's crazy."
"Our court in one swoop, has just overturned that -- and by judicial force, has undemocratically imposed a radical redefinition of marriage on Connecticut," he said.
The suit began in 2004 when eight same-sex couples sued the state, saying their constitutional rights to equal protection and due process were violated when they were denied marriage licenses. They argued that the law denied gay couples the financial, social, and emotional benefits of marriage.
The high court's ruling Friday overturns a lower court's finding in favor of traditional marriage.
"I can't believe it. We're thrilled, we're absolutely overjoyed. We're finally going to be able, after 33 years, to get married," Janet Peck of Colchester said. Peck was one of the eight plaintiffs in the case.
Gov. M. Jodi Rell said Friday that she disagreed with the high court, but will not fight the ruling.
"The Supreme Court has spoken," Rell said in a statement. "I do not believe their voice reflects the majority of the people of Connecticut. However, I am also firmly convinced that attempts to reverse this decision - either legislatively or by amending the state Constitution - will not meet with success."
State Sen. Michael Lawlor said he expects the ruling will be codifying next year when the assembly takes up the debate.
Third State to Allow Gay Marriages
Massachusetts and California are the only other states to allow same-sex couples to marry.
Last May, California's Supreme Court narrowly struck down a ban on gay marriage voted on by more than 60 percent of the people in that state.
Pro-family groups in California immediately put up a November ballot measure to halt same-sex marriage.
Geoffrey Kors, executive director of the gay rights group Equality California, said in May that California's ruling would lead the way for gay rights in the nation.
"What happens in California, either way, will have a huge impact around the nation. It will set the tone."
Sources: CBN News, The Associated Press