In the state of Connecticut this week, a law allowing civil unions for same-sex couples took effect.

The law is unique; it allows civil unions for same-sex couples with full benefits of a regular marriage, while at the same time defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

Heterosexual couples are not allowed to receive civil unions. The license application will be identical to one for a regular marriage, except “bride” and “groom” are replaced with “party 1″ and “party 2.”

The Connecticut civil unions law is the first gay marriage law to be passed voluntarily; lawsuits forced fellow New England states Vermont and Massachusetts to allow same-sex unions. Vermont has civil unions while Massachusetts allows actual same-sex marriage. Some localities have recognized same-sex couples in the form of a domestic partnership.

“This is a historic day. We’re beyond ecstatic.” said Randy Sharp, 46, of Plainville, who was applying for a license with his partner Jeff Blanchette, 44.

Not everyone is happy about the law. Already, opponents are lobbying for an amendment that will ban same-sex marriage. “Today was a sad day for our state. It was a sad day for our state’s children.” said Brian Brown, executive director of Family Institute of Connecticut. The group held a protest outside the Capitol which was attended by 50 people. Last year eleven states voted on Election Day to prohibit same-sex marriage.

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