The Associated Press is
reporting that a gay marriage bill has won unanimous approval by a
Vermont House and Senate committee studying the issue.
After listening to a week's worth of
testimony, the committee approved 5-0 to advance the bill.
Leaders in both houses have
enthusiastically endorsed the bill. Senate President Pro Temporate
Peter Shumlin and House Speaker Shap Smith announced two weeks ago
they would make the legislation a priority in the Legislature.
The bill – introduced by
Representatives Mark Larson (Democrat) and David Zuckerman
(Progressive) – grants gay and lesbian couples the right to marry
in the first state to offer civil unions for gay couples in 2000.
Vermont Governor James Douglas opposes
gay marriage, saying civil unions suffice, but has not indicated he
would veto the bill. Many believe he would let the law take effect
without his signature.
The bill now heads to the Senate where
a full vote is expected next week. If passed, Vermont would become
the first state to legislatively extend marriage to gay and lesbian
couples. Gay marriage became available in Massachusetts, Connecticut
and briefly in California as a result of state Supreme Court