Carol Conklin & Janet Peck
Carol Conklin, 54, and Janet Peck, 56, of Colchester, believe that only marriage reflects the love, respect, devotion and deep level of commitment they have shared for more than 32 years. Since they’ve become a committed couple, they’ve brought their family and friends together to celebrate their tenth, twentieth and thirtieth anniversaries. “I feel in my heart that we have been married for 32 years,” said Janet, “but the fact is, we are still denied the right to marry.”
Connecticut has always been home. Janet was born and raised in Manchester and Carol in Manchester and South Windsor. They’ve lived in Colchester for the last 27 years and Janet owns a local business. Janet has a mental health counseling practice and Carol is an electrician, previously self-employed and now working for the state of Connecticut at Riverview Hospital. “We work hard, but we are denied important rights that we know we need to protect our present and secure our future,” noted Janet.
Family has always been a priority. Major holidays are often celebrated with relatives from both sides of the family in their Colchester home. When Carol’s father’s health began to deteriorate from the effects of Alzheimer’s, the couple brought him from North Carolina to an assisted living facility in Connecticut so that they could oversee his care and visit him regularly until his death in 2005.
One of the many reasons Janet and Carol want the protection of marriage is to ensure access to each other in the hospital. Janet has undergone three surgeries over the last nine years. When Janet had major surgery to remove life-threatening, benign tumors from her liver, she withstood a long and painful recuperation. Carol was at the hospital day and night and lovingly cared for Janet at home until she regained her mobility and independence. Nonetheless, after waiting in the hospital through the eight long hours of surgery, Carol was initially not allowed to visit Janet in intensive care because she was not immediate family. When Carol identified herself as Janet’s partner, the attending nurse said she did not know what that meant.
At yet another point in Janet’s many hospitalizations, she was not permitted to designate Carol as next of kin. “I’m not a stranger,” said Carol, “I’m the one who is responsible for Janet’s welfare and I’m the one who knows her wishes if something were to go wrong. I believe only marriage will provide us with the basic security every couple needs as they face health issues and other crises. Powers of attorney and other legal forms, which we have, don’t always work and are not enough.”
Additionally, the couple has faced basic financial impediments because of their unmarried status. For example, when planning to sell their first home and build a new one seven years ago, they were denied a joint home construction loan because their combined income as a couple was not recognized. For the fifteen years they were both self-employed, they paid for two individual health insurance policies and were unable to purchase the two person policy available on their existing plan because of their single status. This added an additional annual expense of $2100, which totals $31,500 over their fifteen year period of self-employment. While Carol was able to add Janet to her health insurance policy as her domestic partner once she went to work for the state of Connecticut, they still cannot purchase other types of insurance on the same terms available to married couples.
The tax laws are equally unfriendly to their 32-year commitment and partnership. At different times, each returned to school while the other continued working to support the household, but neither could claim the other as a dependent at tax time. They also know the modest amounts they have saved for retirement will not be fully available to the other because they are not married, even though each is the other’s beneficiary on all accounts.
The couple have chosen not obtain a civil union. Janet says, “We’ve just not been able to force ourselves to pledge to a status that says that we’re not equal, or that we’re less than or inferior to others.” Carol adds, “My brothers and sisters are all married, and we’ve been together longer than any of them have been with their spouses. Why would we have something different?”
Carol and Janet have shared their hopes and dreams for the future for the past 32 years including their dream to be married. They believe their life reflects what a marriage truly is and desire the protections, respect and recognition of a legally married couple.