Hartford, Conn. Connecticut on Wednesday became the second state to offer civil unions to gay couples -- and the first to do so without being forced by the courts.
About an hour after the state Senate sent her the legislation, Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell signed into law a bill that will afford same-sex couples in Connecticut many of the rights and privileges of married couples.
"The vote we cast today will reverberate around the country, and it will send a wave of hope to many people, to thousands of people across the country," said Sen. Andrew McDonald.
The state House passed the measure last week but amended it to define marriage under Connecticut law as between one man and one woman. The Senate approved the amended bill Wednesday 26-8.
"I have said all along that I believe in no discrimination of any kind and I think that this bill accomplishes that, while at the same time preserving the traditional language that a marriage is between a man and a woman," Rell said.
Vermont is the only other state to allow civil unions. Massachusetts allows gay couples to marry. But those changes came about after same-sex couples won court battles.
Last summer, seven same-sex couples sued in Connecticut after being denied marriage licenses; the case has not been resolved.
Kansas voters approved in the April 5 election an amendment to the state Constitution April 5 that prohibits same-sex marriages.