At a press event in Montpelier
Thursday, Vermont legislative leaders said they were eager to approve
gay marriage in the first state to offer civil unions for gay and
lesbian couples in 2000, reports The Associated Press.
Lawmakers said they would begin
considering a gay marriage bill sponsored by Representatives Mark
Larson (Democrat) and David Zuckerman (Progressive) when they return
to work. The Legislature is currently on a 2 week break.
State Senate President Pro Tempore
Peter Shumlin and House Speaker Shap Smith – both Democrats –
said the economy remains their highest priority, but that the
Legislature is capable of multitasking.
Shumlin said the gay marriage bill has
been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will hold
week-long hearings on the issue beginning March 16. A public hearing
has been scheduled for March 18 at 6PM at the Statehouse.
Fifty-nine co-sponsors have signed on
to the bill, none of which are Republican. But Republican House
Leader Patti Komline told the Rutland Herald that she would
support the measure.
“I consider it a civil rights issue,”
A similar bill is being sponsored by
Senator John Campbell in the Senate, but has yet to be formally
Gay activists remain hopeful that gay
marriage will come to Vermont and New Jersey this year. They had
hoped to add New York to that list, but Democratic leaders there have
admitted they don't have the votes.
Beth Robinson, chairwoman of Vermont
Freedom To Marry, told gay weekly The Washington Blade that the
likelihood of passage this year was “very high.”
Gay activists are actively pushing for
gay marriage in the six state New England region. Already
Massachusetts and Connecticut offer gay nuptials. The remaining four
states – Vermont, Rhode Island, Maine and New Hampshire – will be
reviewing gay marriage bills throughout the legislative session.
However, Rhode Island Republican Governor Donald Carcieri has already
stated his opposition to the legislation.
Vermont Governor Jim Douglas does not
support gay marriage, but has not indicated he would veto the
measure. Many believe he'll let the measure become law without this