[JURIST] The Connecticut Senate [official website] approved legislation Wednesday recognizing civil unions between same-sex couples, becoming the first state legislature to voluntarily recognize the unions without court pressure. Vermont also recognizes civil unions, but did so only after a lawsuit was brought by same-sex couples. An Act Concerning Marriage Equality [text; bill status summary] was passed 27-9; it gives same-sex couples many of the same rights as married couples, including filing joint state tax returns, qualifying for a partner's health insurance and inheriting a partner's property without paying taxes. Proponents say the legislation should pass the Connecticut House of Representatives. Republican Governor M. Jodi Rell [official website] has not yet indicated whether she would sign the bill but has in the past said that she supports civil unions. Opponents of the bill such as the Family Institute of Connecticut [advocacy website] maintain that a majority of voters do not support civil unions or same-sex marriage. Opponents also failed to amend the bill by adding a definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman. The bill's passage comes a day after Kansas passed a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage [JURIST report], joing seventeen other states in doing so. AP has more.