CT Vote Could Affect Gay Marriage, More Laws

Voters in Connecticut are deciding Tuesday whether to call a convention to amend the state's constitution, a move opponents of gay marriage hope to use to keep that issue alive.

Connecticut voters are asked every 20 years whether the state should hold a convention during which delegates can rewrite the entire constitution. The last constitutional convention was held in 1965 to correct a flawed system of apportioning representatives to the General Assembly.

This time, proponents hope to change the constitution to allow citizens the opportunity to bypass the legislature and petition for changes in state law through direct ballot initiatives.

Proponents of a convention view it as the easiest path toward overturning last month's state Supreme Court ruling that found banning gay marriage unconstitutional. Connecticut is the third state, after Massachusetts and California, to offer gay marriage, with the first unions scheduled as early as Nov. 12.

Others hope to use initiative and referendum to amend the state's eminent domain laws, cap property taxes, impose term limits, or impose mandatory life sentences for certain violent crimes.

Supporters of the constitutional convention include Gov. M. Jodi Rell, who has said citizens should have more opportunities for referendums. She has said there should be thresholds and guidelines about what can be on the ballots.

Opponents include Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who said constitutional conventions can lead to "a costly open-ended free-for-all that could well be dominated by special interests."

They point out the constitution can be more easily amended through legislation. Any amendment needs a three-quarters vote of both General Assembly houses to go on the ballot, or a simple majority in two consecutive legislative sessions.

There have been 30 amendments passed since 1965.

An amendment made its way on to this year's ballot through that process. The second question voters were asked to consider Tuesday asks if the constitution should be amended so that people who turn 18 years old between the primary and general elections should be allowed to vote in those primaries.

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