The Vermont House voted 95 to 52 yesterday in favor of a bill that would allow same-sex marriage in the state. A version of the bill was overwhelmingly passed in a 26 to 4 vote by the state Senate in March. After a vote in the Senate today to reconcile changes made by the House, the bill will go to Republican Governor Jim Douglas, who has said he will veto the measure. Vermont currently allows civil unions, but the current bill would expand benefits offered to same-sex couples.
In a statement released last week, the Governor reinforced his position: “Vermont’s civil union law has extended the same state rights, responsibilities and benefits of marriage to same-sex couples. I believe our civil union law serves Vermont well and I would support congressional action to extend those benefits at the federal level to states that recognize same-sex unions….I believe that marriage should remain between a man and woman.”
The House vote followed nearly five hours of debate on the subject, according to Vermont Freedom to Marry. The final tally is only five votes short of the two-thirds vote needed to override a veto by the governor. Beth Robinson, Vermont Freedom to Marry’s spokeswoman, told CNN that the House vote was “a testament to the power of telling our stories….We know we’ve got more work to do in the run-up to the override vote.”
Vermont became the first state to give civil recognition to gay and lesbian couples with the passage of legislation that established civil unions in the state in 2000. At the time, this law granted same-sex partners the most comprehensive system of domestic partner benefits in the nation, qualifying them for the some 300 rights and benefits available to married couples in the state.