Since same-sex marriage became legal in Connecticut in 2008, thousands of couples have taken the plunge.
From 2009 to 2018, the state has seen more than 12,087 same-sex marriages officiated.
Same-sex marriage has been legally recognized in Connecticut since Nov. 12, 2008, following a state court decision that found the state's civil unions failed to provide same-sex couples with rights and privileges equivalent to those of marriage.
Taking the rights of same sex couples a step further, on July 16, 2014, the Connecticut Supreme Court, reversed judgments in lower courts and ruled unanimously that a same-sex couple in a relationship established before the state afforded legal recognition to their relationship has the same rights as other married couples.
After a bump in 2009, after legalization took hold, the number of same sex couples choosing marriage has remained fairly consistent in recent years: 543 in 2008; 2,706 in 2009; 1,791 in 2010; 1,262 in 2011; 668 in 2012; 1,356 in 2013; 1,057 in 2014; 689 in 2015; 704 in 2016; 672 in 2017; and 639 in 2018.
Across the country, according to estimates from the 2019 Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement, there are 543,000 same-sex married couple households and 469,000 households with same-sex unmarried partners living together.
None of this is news to local justices of the peace. The Wedding Ladies of Middlesex County have been involved with helping same sex partners tie the knot since the start.
Second generation justice of the peace, Lea Pomaszewsk, is the owner of “The Wedding Ladies of Middlesex County.” Her mother, the late Eleanor Pomaszewski, was a justice of the peace and the original “Wedding Lady of Middlesex County.” Her father also was a justice of the peace.
Her mother officiated same sex weddings “as soon as it became legal in Connecticut,” said Lea Pomaszewski. “I am proud of my mother. I am proud of her being an early proponent of same sex marriages,” she said, adding, “She was one of the first.”
Same sex unions didn’t always receive that level of support. According to a headline in the Connecticut Post, July 7, 2008, “For civil unions Justices of the Peace can say ‘I won’t.”
The Post wrote that “Connecticut Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz, said public employees, such as town clerks who give marriage and civil union licenses, are prohibited from discriminating. But justices of the peace are simply nominated by their political parties and are therefore in a different category. Just like a lawyer can refuse a case, a JP can say no to civil union request.”
Lea Pomaszewski recalled that when same-sex marriage was first legalized the calls started coming in and couples would say they had searched for officiants to marry them, and often would get negative feedback.
Pomaszewski said, “when they asked my mother if she would marry them, she would say, ‘sure.’ We are big believers in love. We wanted to be a part of it.”
The first same sex ceremony Pomaszewski’s mother officiated was for two men. The couple lived in Washington, D.C., but were getting married in Middletown at one of their sister’s houses, she said, adding that a lot of weddings are done at private homes.
Another memorable ceremony was for a couple who came all the way from Alabama, where same sex marriage was not legal at the time. “The women also had their entourage follow—in three cars from Alabama,” said Pomaszewski. The women were married on the beach in Old Saybrook.
Initially, Pomaszewski. and her mother created a ceremony specifically for same sex couples. However, “We found same sex couples didn’t want to be treated different,” Pomaszewski said. “We found that everyone wanted the same thing. They wanted the traditional ceremony,”
Pomaszewski said same sex couples want to choose between the traditional wedding vows; add or leave out portions, or some couples write their own vows. “Your wedding, your way,” is how Pomaszewski sums up the way her mother officiated and how she carries on. “It just has to be meaningful to you. Not a cookie-cutter ceremony but tailored to the person.”