"Citing the equal protection clause of the state constitution, the justices ruled that civil unions were discriminatory. In a 4-3 decision released at 11:30 a.m., the majority wrote that the state's "understanding of marriage must yield to a more contemporary appreciation of the rights entitled to constitutional protection."
"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," the majority wrote. "To decide otherwise would require us to apply one set of constitutional principles to gay persons and another to all others."
Unsatisfied with the civil unions approved by the legislature in 2005, eight same-sex couples had brought the case, Kerrigan v. the state Commissioner of Public Health, after they were denied marriage licenses in 2004 by the Madison town clerk, who was following instructions issued by the state attorney general's office.
The state, arguing that civil unions already provide all the rights and protections of marriage, prevailed in a Superior Court ruling in July 2006. The couples appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court, which heard three hours of arguments on the case in May 2007.
Attorney Bennett Klein, arguing on behalf of the couples, told the court that civil unions were a "less prestigious, less advantageous institution." (Joe My God)