In 2009 Vermont legalized gay marriage and the recognition of gay marriages performed in other states. The passage of this legislation was the result of a ten-year battle but the actual voting process was quick yet interesting. In the first week of April (2009) the two houses voted on a gay marriage bill which resulted in being four votes shy of a veto-overriding majority. The bill promptly arrived at the desk of former Governor Jim Douglas (R) who swiftly vetoed it. Attached to the veto was a letter from the former Governor explaining his decision to prevent the legalization of same-sex marriage. Belief that marriage is between a man and a woman and the denial of federal rights even if the bill did pass in Vermont were some of the reasons he cited. But, the following day was truly extraordinary as many who had originally opposed the bill changed sides and voted in its favor thus legalizing gay marriage.
The passing of this legislation was particularly momentous because ten years prior, Vermont was the first state to allow civil unions between gay couples. As Jennifer C. Pizer, project director of the legal advocacy group, Lambda Legal, stated ”each time there’s an important step forward, it makes it easier for others to follow.”
Today’s Battle and Those Behind It
The national nonprofit organization (Vermont) Freedom to Marry, which led the fight to legalize civil unions and full marriage equality, has new plans and projects underway as well as Truth Wins Out. Truth Wins Out is a non-profit organization that “fights anti-gay religious extremism” (by monitoring anti-LGBTQ organizations’ statements) and together, these two organizations are working to get mayors across the state of Vermont to sign the Mayors for the Freedom to Marry Statement which pushes for marriage equality across the nation.
Vermont is certainly way ahead of the pack but this position arguably comes with a certain responsibility to propel the remaining forty-four states that are lagging behind, towards marriage equality.
However, there is still work to be done even within Vermont. Although same-sex couples can marry here they are “still denied the more than 1,100 benefits and protections of civil marriage at the federal level thanks to the discriminatory ‘Defense of Marriage Act,’” says John Becker, the Director of Communications at Truth Wins Out. From here, the road looks long but Vermont is in a good position to make great strides towards total marriage equality.
Mayor Bob Kiss of Burlington has signed the Mayors for the Freedom to Marry Statement joining the 150+ who are already on the list. Mayors of Barre, Montpelier, Newport, Rutland, St. Albans, Vergennes and Winooski were the most recent to receive pleas to also sign the Statement so their replies will be anxiously awaited over the next few weeks.
- Same-sex marriage allowed? Yes.
- Recognition of same-sex marriages from another state? Yes.
- Same-sex civil unions and domestic partnerships allowed? Yes.