“What’s in a name?” – William Shakespeare
Gideon reflects on our Supreme Court confronting the issue of gay marriage in Connecticut in light of the California Supreme Court’s overturning California’s ban on gay marriages:
…it seems to me that the most likely outcome is that the Court will punt the case ( Kerrigan v. Commissioner of Public Health) back to the legislature. The days of the CT Supreme Court being on the forefront of progressive jurisprudence seem to be long gone.
Is punting the issue back to the legislature the right outcome? I think not. Resolving this question is squarely within the Court’s jurisdiction.
I’ve read Judge Pittman’s Superior Court Decision in Kerrigan v. State, 49 Conn. Supp. 644 (2006) in which the court held that:
Civil union and marriage in Connecticut now share the same benefits, protections and responsibilities under law. The Connecticut constitution requires that there be equal protection and due process of law, not that there be equivalent nomenclature for such protection and process.
Words and nomenclature are powerful expressions of status in our society. We know this.
Just last year, the Department of Mental Retardation changed its name to the Department of Developmental Services. Why?:
This change reflects the mission and commitment of the department to serve individuals eligible for services with the utmost respect and dignity. DDS Website.
DDS didn’t change its mission or the services it provides – it changed its name.
Imagine if there was a law that prevented Connecticut’s women superior court judges from being called “judges.” Assume that women on the bench were afforded all of the same rights, privileges and responsibilities as their male counterparts except their title is “Miss” instead of “judge’.
Imagine if out of tradition, only white male justices on the Connecticut Supreme Court could hold the title of Justice or Chief Justice. Assume that all members of the Court would have the same rights privileges and responsibilities but different titles based on their gender and race.
In 2008, can you imagine an advocate opening his argument with: “May it please the Court, Miss Rogers, Associate Justices, Mr. Norcott (the Court’s only black Justice) and other Misses of the Court.” I can’t.
Our Supreme Court Justices should be asking themselves, what’s in a name?
And when they do, they should conclude that seperate is not equal.
Tomorrow, I’ll play Justice (not Miss or Mr.) for a blog….