Connecticut Court Affirms Pre-Gay Marriage Rights
Connecticut's highest court ruled Wednesday that some legal rights of same-sex couples predate the state's approvals of civil unions in 2005 and gay marriage in 2008, a decision that gay rights supporters call the first of its kind in the country.
The state Supreme Court issued a 6-0 decision overturning two lower court rulings and allowing a widow to sue a doctor in a medical malpractice case for the death of her spouse and the loss of her spouse's companionship and income. The alleged malpractice occurred from 2001 to 2004, a time when only married couples were allowed to sue for loss of spousal "consortium."
"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," said Ben Klein, a lawyer for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders in Boston. "This will be an influential and important decision that other courts will look to."
Connecticut was the second state after Massachusetts to approve gay marriage. Same-sex marriage is now legal in 19 states and the District of Columbia. Gay marriage bans that have been overturned in some other states continue to make their way through the courts.
The Connecticut case involved Margaret Mueller and Charlotte Stacey, insurance industry workers who lived in Stamford and Norwalk. They had a civil union in Connecticut in 2005 and got married in Massachusetts in 2008 after 23 years together under that state's gay marriage law, shortly before the Connecticut Supreme Court approved gay marriage.
Mueller was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2001. In 2005, however, Mueller and Stacey learned the diagnosis was wrong and she actually had appendix cancer. Mueller died in 2009 at age 62. Stacey said her death could have been prevented if the original diagnosis had been correct.
Mueller sued for malpractice, and a jury issued a $2.4 million verdict in her favor against one doctor, Iris Wertheim, after her death, said Stacey's lawyer, Sean McElligott. Another doctor named in the lawsuit, Isidore Tepler, settled the malpractice claims.