Gay marriage legal in Vermont
(Montpelier, Vermont) Vermont has become the fourth state where same-sex marriage is legal. and the first to do so in the legislature.
The House and Senate on Tuesday overrode Gov. Jim Douglas’ veto of a marriage bill.
The Republican governor, as expected, nixed the bill Monday night when it arrived on his desk and sent it back to the legislature.
The Senate voted 23-5 to override the veto. It then moved to the House which voted 100-49- the exact number needed to override the veto.
While the broad spread in the Senate was predicted, the House vote went down to the wire. Dozens of gay marriage supporters wearing Freedom to marry stickers began arriving at the State House early Tuesday morning. Democratic leaders predicted the vote could come down to a single vote, and they were right.
“Today Vermont legislators did the right thing by overriding Governor Douglas’ veto and granting equal rights to all Vermonters,” said Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin in a statement.
“The struggle for equal rights is never easy. I was proud to be President of the Senate nine years ago when Vermont led the country by creating civil unions. Today is another historic day for Vermont and I have never felt more proud as we become the first state in the country to enact marriage equality not as the result of a court order, but because it is the right thing to do,” said Shumlin.
In vetoing the marriage equality bill, Douglas attempted to portray himself as a moderate, putting the blame on the federal defense of marriage law.
“This legislation does not address the inequalities espoused by proponents,” his statement said. “Regardless of whether the term marriage is applied, federal benefits will still be denied to same sex couples in Vermont.”
Douglas said that the legislation does not provide any additional benefits not already available under Vermont’s civil unions law.
Vermont was the first state in the country to legalize civil unions in 2000. Since then, LGBT groups have criticized the law for creating a “two tiered” system - marriage for opposite-sex couples and civil unions for gays.
The marriage law amends the old civil unions law to allow marriage of same-sex partners beginning Sept. 1. Civil unions, which confer some rights similar to marriage, would still be recognized but no longer granted after Sept. 1.
The law also guarantees that churches would not be obligated to marry same-sex couples.
Vermont now joins Massachusetts, Connecticut and Iowa with legalized same-sex marriage - but the only one in which the legislature voted to allow same-sex couples to marry. Legalization in the other three states came as a result of court action.
Marriage bills also are being considered in Maine and New Hampshire.