gay marriage–closer to becoming a reality

First the Iowa Court legalizes gay marriage, and now this:

Vermont legalizes gay marriage with veto override

MONTPELIER, Vt. – Vermont, which invented civil unions, on Tuesday became a pioneer again as the first state to legalize gay marriage through a legislature’s vote, suggesting growing popular acceptance of the idea.

The House barely achieved the votes necessary to override Gov. Jim Douglas’ veto of a bill that will allow gays and lesbians to marry beginning September 1. Four states now have same-sex marriage laws and other states soon could follow suit.

Bills to allow same-sex marriage are currently before lawmakers in New Hampshire, Maine, New York and New Jersey. The three other states that currently allow same-sex marriage — Connecticut, Massachusetts and Iowa — each moved to do so through the courts, not legislatures.

“For a popularly elected legislature to make this decision is a much more democratic process” because lawmakers have to answer to the voters every other November, said Eric Davis, a retired Middlebury College political science professor.

Courts typically deal with arcane points of constitutional law. While legislatures debate some of the same principles, the process may become much more personal. In Vermont, some of the most gripping debate came when gay and lesbian lawmakers took to the House floor last Thursday and told their own personal love stories.

Getting gay marriage approved in a political, rather than purely legal, forum is a big step, said Boston University law professor Linda McClain, an expert on family law and policy. “What may give courage to other legislatures is that this legislature managed to do it,” she said.

She added that using the civil rights language of equality — the measure in Vermont was dubbed the marriage equality bill — could help make gay marriage more acceptable elsewhere.

Opponents said they, too, believe activists will be emboldened in other states. The action comes just days after the Iowa Supreme court ruled that not permitting gay marriage there was unconstitutional.

“To the millions of Americans who care about marriage, we say get ready: President Obama and Democrats will use Vermont as an excuse to overturn the bipartisan federal Defense of Marriage Act,” said Brian Brown, executive director of the National Organization for Marriage, which waged a radio campaign against the measure. “The next step is to ask the Supreme Court to impose gay marriage on all 50 states.”

The Defense of Marriage Act, signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996, defines marriage as a legal union between a man and a woman, and provides that states need not recognize the marriage of a same sex couple from another state.

To date, the same-sex marriage movement’s main gains have been in New England, which some attribute to Yankee liberalism and the gradual acceptance of gay relationships after Vermont’s groundbreaking civil unions law took effect in 2000.

Douglas had announced his intent to veto the gay marriage bill two weeks ago, saying he believed marriage should be limited to a man and a woman and calling the issue a distraction during a time when economic and budget issues were more important.

In Tuesday’s vote, a “yes” was needed from two-thirds of those present to override the governor’s veto. The goal was easily achieved in the Senate, which voted 23-5, but in the House it was much closer, 100-49.

The speaker’s announcement of the results to a packed Statehouse chamber, set off whistles and cheers among supporters whose hopes had been temporarily dashed last month when the Republican governor announced he would veto the measure if it passed the Legislature.

Among the celebrants: Former state lawmaker Robert Dostis and his longtime partner, Chuck Kletecka. Dostis recalled efforts to expand gay rights dating to an anti-discrimination law passed in 1992.

“It’s been a very long battle. It’s been almost 20 years to get to this point,” Dostis said. “I think finally, most people in Vermont understand that we’re a couple like any other couple. We’re as good and as bad as any other group of people.”

Dostis said he and Kletecka will celebrate their 25th year together in September.

“Is that a proposal?” Kletecka asked.

“Yeah,” Dostis replied. “Twenty-five years together, I think it’s time we finally got married.”

Craig Bensen, a gay marriage opponent who had lobbied unsuccessfully for a nonbinding referendum on the question, said his side was outspent by supporters by 20-1.

“The other side had a highly funded, extremely well-oiled machine with all the political leadership except the governor pushing to make this happen,” he said. “The fact that it came down to this tight a vote is really astounding.”

The measure had only 95 “yea” votes when it passed the House on Friday. But some changed their votes Tuesday.

Rep. Jeff Young, D-St. Albans, who voted no twice because he’s philosophically opposed to gay marriage, joined most other Democrats in voting to override Douglas’ veto.

“I think if I wanted to continue my career here and have any chance of being effective, I had to vote with my caucus,” he said.

“You have some pet projects, you think you can help your district back home with things that need to happen,” he said. “I want to get a railroading bill through. I wouldn’t even have had a chance to testify, let alone get it through. Now, people will listen to me. It’s the way the political game is played.”

House Speaker Shap Smith said he didn’t use any specific arguments to get lawmakers to switch. He said he had argued mainly that they should support the will of the legislative majorities on the bill’s initial approvals — 95-52 in the House and 26-4 in the Senate.

“I thought it was to some degree just a vote to recognize the work that the Legislature had done,” the speaker said.

Sitting next to him was Rep. William Lippert, D-Hinesburg, a gay man who championed both the 2000 civil unions bill and this year’s gay marriage legislation.

“It’s been an incredibly powerful personal journey,” Lippert said. “I consider it my personal great good fortune to be a member of the Vermont Legislature under the leadership of speakers who have in fact prioritized civil rights for the community of which I’m a part. It touches me deeply.”

I personally am THRILLED about this newz. Mostly becuz it finally FINALLY gives Gay folks the same rights as Hetero folks, and to date, Ive heard NO compelling reason why they shouldnt be treated equally under the law. Personally, I dont think ANYONE has any right to dictate to another person who they should love for crying out loud. Thats just ASININE. I myself am straight so any trolls who think they can attack me based on my own sexuality can just go take a long walk off a short pier. Anyone who tries to bring religion into the mix is blatantly ignoring the concept of religious freedom upon which this country was founded , so any right wing nutjobs can keep their homophobias to themselves as far as IM concerned. That makes 3 states and counting. To all my Gay friends, Im with you 100%, and I vote and I DO write my….Im with you all in your fight no matter how long it takes!!!!!


~ by irishgrl on April 3, 2009.

One Response to “gay marriage–closer to becoming a reality”

  1. I wholeheartedly agree — and I was one of the many hundreds who took to the streets in Des Moines to celebrate when the law passed! I also am not gay but have many gay friends — and many of us see the possibilties exploding… My long-time girlfriend (I was her matron of honor over 20 years ago) lost her husband about 6 years ago and has been struggling as a single mom ever since. I have been single now since 1998 and having lost my job also lost my health insurance…

    The day the law passed, she called me up and proposed that WE should get married (why do we have to BE gay to take advantage of this opportunity???) As a married couple, we would be able to file joint tax returns — since I have no income, I would simply be a valuable deduction for her as her children are rapidly growing older and moving out on their own… also, I would be able to be included on her VERY good health insurance plan where she works. We could still have two homes, jointly we would have great credit, and she would be guaranteed someone to take care of her younger son in the event anything happened to her before he could take care of himself (he is mentally and emotionally disabled and may never live on his own).

    I can see where this new law could benefit many folks who aren’t gay but are long-time friends or roommates — like my friend’s Aunt who lived with her college roommate for 40 years, but when the roommate passed away, the roommate’s brother inherited everything and tossed the Aunt out on her ear… Had they been married, the Aunt would have had survivor’s rights and would have been able to keep their home at least until she died…

    Oh, and I did not marry my friend although I love her for making the offer… Our families and friends just would never understand all the reasons behind it and while I don’t plan on marrying ANYONE in the forseeable future, I do want to keep my options open …

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: