Vermont is now the first state to
legalize gay marriage legislatively, instead of by court order. This
is the second state in as many weeks to extend marriage to gay and
lesbian couples. Last week, the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously
legalized gay marriage.
Gay marriage proponents barely managed
to override a veto by Republican Governor Jim Douglas.
As promised, Governor Jim Douglas
vetoed the gay marriage bill on Monday. This morning, the Senate
overrode the governor with a 23 to 5 vote, but drama around a House
vote was being described as a “nail bitter.” The final tally was
100 to 49, with not one vote to spare.
Along with his veto, the Republican
governor said the gay marriage bill would not end discrimination for
gay and lesbian couples – a more charitable response than
the chill rhetoric he had previously offered.
“This legislation does not address
the inequalities espoused by proponents,” he said in a statement.
“Regardless of whether the term
marriage is applied, federal benefits will still be denied to same
sex couples in Vermont. And states that do not recognize same sex
marriage or civil unions will also deny state rights and
responsibilities [to gay couples].”
But lawmakers, who quickly moved to
override the veto, disagreed.
“The people's representatives have
made history, declaring a separate recognition for some families as
being unequal in the eyes of the law,” Jody M. Huckaby, executive
director of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays
(PFLAG), said in a statement. “And Vermont's families have won a
joyous victory, gaining the rights, protections and recognition they
deserve under the law.”
Gay activists furiously worked over the
weekend, chasing down lawmakers believed to be on the fence.
“We're doing everything we can to
reach legislators, tell our stories, and urge them to support
fairness for our families,” Beth
Robinson, executive director of Vermont Freedom to Marry, told
On Top Magazine in an email Sunday. “We're hoping for the
Over the weekend, volunteers were busy
manning phone banks in Burlington, canvassing neighborhoods, and
asking supporters to call and email their representatives and the
“Many supporters – mostly straight
and many not historically political – have stepped up to the
plate,” Robinson said.