In a ruling that
cannot be appealed, the Vermont Supreme Court decided yesterday that
homosexual couples must be granted the same benefits and protections
provided for married heterosexual couples, whether through a formal
marriage contract or a domestic partner system.
The ruling came as no surprise to those following the homosexual
rights movement — Vermont is considered one of the most liberal states
in the union — and because the decision was based upon the state’s
constitution rather than the U.S. Constitution, it cannot be appealed to
the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Vermont state legislature is
now left with the task of determining just what those benefits and
protections will look like.
In its decision, the court said: “We hold that the state is
constitutionally required to extend to same-sex couples the common
benefits and protection that flow from marriage under Vermont law,” and
that “whether this ultimately takes the form of inclusion within the
marriage laws themselves or a parallel ‘domestic partnership’ system or
some equivalent statutory alternative, rests with the Legislature.
Whatever system is chosen, however, must conform with the constitutional
imperative to afford all Vermonters the common benefit, protection, and
security of the law.”
The decision comes on the heels of Hawaii’s Supreme Court ruling to
deny same-sex marriages. Hawaii’s court said the issue was
resolved by a 1998 amendment to the state constitution against
While Hawaii and Vermont are the only two states whose courts have
battled over homosexual marriage rights, other states’ legislatures have
been debating the issue for years.
California’s legislature passed a domestic registry scheme scheduled
to go into effect Jan. 1, 2000, as well as new requirements for the
health insurance industry, which benefit same-sex partners. The state
also has passed anti-discrimination laws requiring schools to teach
acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle to students in an effort to
reduce schoolyard mockery of children who are perceived to be
In fact, the many pieces of pro-homosexual rights legislation passed
in California this year could serve as a model to Vermont legislators
who will begin their deliberations next year.
Although the ruling is interpreted as a victory by homosexual rights
activists, they say it doesn’t go far enough.
“The court’s decision is unique in that it commands that the state
give same-sex couples every benefit and protection that it currently
provides to married couples,” said Paula Ettelbrick, attorney and Family
Policy Director at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute. “The decision is a significant
step forward for our community and makes Vermont the second state
supreme court to rule that the constitution protects our relationships.
“However, by stopping short of fully recognizing the freedom to
marry, the court has opened the door to complete equality, but has not
constitutionally guaranteed it. Now the battle progresses to the Vermont
Legislature,” Ettelbrick continued. “We have the opportunity as a
community to convince lawmakers to provide the full badge of citizenship
by recognizing the freedom to marry.”
Homosexual activists’ voices are not the only ones being heard on the
issue in state legislatures.
Californians have qualified Proposition 22 for
the ballot in 2000. Known as the “Limits on Marriage Initiative,”
proponents seek to stop the state’s inertia toward legalized homosexual
“This ruling today is all the reason in the world why Proposition 22
needs to pass in California, because the citizens of California have the
right to decide these issues for themselves,” said Mark Washburn,
president of Capitol Resource Institute, one of the grass-roots organizations
fighting the homosexual agenda.
Michael Bowman, director of state and local affairs at the Family
Research Council, a national pro-family activist
organization, said, “This ruling is another example of liberal judicial
activism’s continued assault on families of America.”
Washburn told WorldNetDaily that he is not at all surprised by the
decision, but is relieved that the court did not legalize same-sex
marriage outright, which could have led to California’s recognition of
homosexual unions that are created in Vermont.
Vermont Governor Howard Dean has declined to state a position on
same-sex marriages, saying he was awaiting the decision of the court.
But the lieutenant governor, Douglas Racine, and the speaker of the
Vermont House, Michael Obuchowski, have said they favor the ruling on