Plessy decision cited in major gay marriage case

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Appearing last month before the state’s highest court, a lawyer representing eight same-sex couples led a spirited attack on Connecticut’s refusal to grant gay couples the freedom to marry. He also challenged the notion that civil union laws — like those enacted in Connecticut, New Jersey, Vermont, and most recently New Hampshire — are a constitutionally adequate alternative.

The plaintiffs’ argument was laced with references to Plessy v. Ferguson, the U.S. Supreme Court’s notorious 1896 decision which justified racial segregation under a deplorable standard of “separate but equal.” Although startling, the analogy is apt. In establishing civil unions two years ago, Connecticut lawmakers created a separate and inherently inferior institution that continues to deny gay couples the equality they seek and deserve.

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