The Connecticut Supreme Court in a 4-3 decision today overturned the state’s ban on same-sex marriages. The ruling in Kerrigan v. Commissioner of Public Health (download majority opinion here) is ground-breaking, breathtaking and warrants all employers’ full attention.
All the major media outlets such as the New York Times and the Hartford Courant already have good coverage of the case, which has been years in the making. Blog coverage is picking up with a post from A Connecticut Law Blog and Workplace Prof Blog, among those analyzing the case.
Because I’m traveling today, I’ll post a further update early next week after I’ve had a chance to digest the full decision (85 pages) and all of the dissents but I’ve been trying to determine the immediate impact for employers in the state.
The short answer is that I’m not yet convinced that the decision is going to have a big impact for employers in the state. (Its impact in other areas is a different question.)
Many employers are already prohibited from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and have had to provide benefits to those who are involved in civil unions (to the same extent as married couples), so I don’t think the decision is going to have as big an effect in the workplace as it will in other facets. In fact, in the court’s decision, it cites to the anti-discrimination state law provisions as support for its believe that being gay or lesbian is a protected class deserving of equal protection.
Given the "so what" nature that civil unions have had in the state for employers, it’ll be interesting to see the real effect for employers. Obviously, same-sex spouses will now be eligible for certain employment benefits but there hasn’t been a huge uproar from employers from the civil union law passage. So I suspect for many employers, the true impact is likely to less than in other areas of the law.