A gay marriage law approved by Vermont
lawmakers in April takes effect on Tuesday, but officials are not
expecting a rush to the altar.
Vermont is the first state to legalize
gay marriage legislatively, instead of by court order.
Gay marriage proponents in the
Legislature managed to cobble together the bare minimum of votes
needed to override a veto by Republican Governor Jim Douglas in
In vetoing the gay marriage bill,
Douglas said the legislation failed to end the discrimination faced
by gay and lesbian couples.
“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].”
Vermont's move comes nine years after
the state became the first to offer gay and lesbian couples civil
unions at the behest of the Vermont Supreme Court.
In 2000, gay and lesbian couples
flooded into Vermont; out-of-state couples made up nearly 70 percent
of the 7,000 civil unions performed in the first year.
But the New England gay marriage
landscape has altered drastically since then. Five out of six New
England states – Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont and
Connecticut – have legalized gay nuptials. Even gay couples from
New York, Vermont's largest neighbor to its west, where marriage is
not available, are unlikely to take advantage of the new law because
the option has been available for nearly a year in nearby
Connecticut. Other New Yorkers remain hopeful that a
widely-supported gay marriage bill held up in the state Senate will
finally become law.
“We've got about a dozen gay
marriages happening at the lodge between Sept. 1 and the end of the
year,” Willie Docto, co-owner of the Moose Meadow Lodge in
Waterbury, told the Rutland Herald. “I think a lot of
people have already gotten married in Massachusetts or Connecticut
over the last few years. … It was a special thing when civil unions
came along in 2000.
“We're not expecting a huge rush,”
Greg Trulson, Docto's civil union partner, said. “We're not the
only place that gay and lesbian couples can have their union legally
Still, gay and lesbian Vermonters will
be celebrating and marrying on Tuesday. Several congregations will
be offering renewal ceremonies for both gay and straight couples.
Many straight couples decided to renew their vows to show solidarity
with gay and lesbian couples.
The Rev. Erica Baron, who has two
Unitarian Universalist congregations, told the paper that nearly
one-quarter of the couples scheduled to renew their vows next week
“This isn't just about gay and
lesbian couples,” she said. “Everyone can find joy in this day.”