Rep. William Tong, D-Stamford. Clarice Silber /
Rep. William Tong, D-Stamford. Clarice Silber /

Rep. William Tong of Stamford, the Democratic convention-endorsed candidate for attorney general, said Thursday he would create a civil-rights division in the office if elected, promising to be an activist on issues ranging from housing segregation to gay rights.

Facing a Democratic primary in which voters tend to be liberal, Tong’s proposal was an effort to capitalize on the U.S. Supreme Court’s narrowly drawn decision on behalf of a Colorado baker who had refused to create a cake for a gay couple. 

“This week, the Supreme Court failed to adequately protect the civil liberties of the LGBTQ community,” Tong said.

Tong said a civil rights  division would be “proactive” in enforcing civil rights laws, which now are largely the province of the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities. That eventually could mean conflict with dozens of suburbs over housing segregation.

Only 20 of Connecticut’s 169 cities and towns allow multi-family housing, which is defined as three or more units, as a right under their zoning regulations; two dozen bar it and the rest allow housing of three or more units by special permit. 

Tong said an attorney general and a civil-rights division could press for change without litigation by engaging the General Assembly and municipalities in discussion about opening housing opportunities.

“The job of the attorney general is to come here, not just to practice law, but to change it,” Tong said. “And I think Dick Blumenthal exemplified that. George Jepsen as well.”

Tong is competing for the Democratic nomination in a primary with state Sen. Paul Doyle of Wethersfield and Chris Mattei, a former federal prosector from Hartford.

He was joined Thursday at a press conference by one of their former rivals, Assistant Attorney General Clare Kindall, and Reps. Jeff Currey and Jason Rojas of East Hartford and Joshua Hall of Hartford.

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.

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