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Connecticut becomes the first state to affirm pre-gay marriage rights

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Gay rights supporters and same-sex couples gained another victory on Wednesday. In a 6-0 decision, Connecticut’s highest court ruled in favor of a widow who will now be allowed to sue for loss of spousal “consortium” following the death of her spouse. The ruling states that some legal rights of same-sex couples predate the 2005 approval of civil unions and gay marriage in 2008.

The decision is monumental because it is the first of its kind in the country and will be a case other states may be influenced by shall similar cases be taken to the Supreme Court on state levels. The decision also overturned two lower court rulings, which further demonstrated the progression of change throughout the nation when it comes to LGBT rights and same-sex marriage benefits and recognition. Ben Klein, a lawyer for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders in Boston, called the victory influential.

He told the Associated Press, “It’s another example of the Connecticut Supreme Court leading the way in recognizing that the love and commitment of same-sex couples is exactly the same as different-sex couples. This will be an influential and important decision that other courts will look to.”

That love and commitment resonated in Margaret Mueller and Charlotte Stacey, a same-sex couple who legally married in the state of Massachusetts in 2008 before Mueller died in 2009 of cancer after being misdiagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2001. The couple did have a civil union in Connecticut in 2005, but unfortunately Mueller passed away in the same year that the state approved same-sex marriage.

Stacey, who now lives in Middletown, Connecticut, believes Mueller’s death could’ve been prevented, but because the couple weren’t married at the time of the misdiagnosis, a lower court ruled that under the law Stacey prevented from suing for loss of consortium. After being together 23 years, Stacey’s argument was that they would’ve been married at the time if they were allowed. The Supreme Court agreed stating in the decision that it wasn’t legally possible for Stacey and Mueller to be married or in a civil union at the time.

In a feeling of victory and justice, Stacey said, “The Supreme Court sought fit to rectify this injustice. It validates my loss of my spouse for the fact that what I suffered for the seven years that Marge had cancer…and all that I gave up and all that I don’t have because she died because of the malpractice.”

Mueller sued for malpractice and was issued a $2.4 million verdict in her favor. But the verdict came after her death. The other doctor named in the case settled the malpractice claims. Stacey will now be granted the right to sue for loss of consortium, which Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers feels is a basic right. He wrote in his decision, “Society has come to accept the view that committed same sex couples…are entitled to the same social and legal recognition as committed opposite sex couples.” It was a ruling applauded by Governor Daniel P. Malloy and Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman as well as the LGBT community in the state of Connecticut.

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