Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas
The Republican governor of Vermont vetoed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage passed by the state’s Legislature yesterday, only to have the lawmakers at the Capitol override the veto today.
The bill had passed easily through the Vermont Senate, 26-4, last month, but the House had approved it 95-52, just five votes short of the two-thirds majority needed in the 150-member body to override a gubernatorial veto.
The Associated Press reports the vote today to override the veto was 23-5 in the state Senate and 100-49 in the House.
Vermont becomes the third state in the country to legalize same-sex marriage, following Massachusetts and Connecticut. Last week, an Iowa Supreme Court ruling overturned the Midwestern state’s ban on same-sex marriage, a ruling that – if fully implemented by state administrators – would raise the total to four states.
Vermont was the first state in the country to adopt civil unions for homosexual couples nine years ago.
In comments delivered with yesterday’s veto, Governor Jim Douglas stated that adding the term “marriage” to Vermont’s statutes would serve no practical purpose.
“This legislation does not address the inequalities espoused by proponents,” said the governor. “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 same-sex couples married in Vermont.”
“I would support congressional action to extend those benefits at the federal level to states that recognize same-sex unions,” Douglas continued. “But I believe that marriage should remain between a man and a woman.”
Douglas had promised to veto the bill even before it was passed, but also said that he wouldn’t urge fellow Republicans to side with him on upholding the veto.
“I think this is such an emotional, divisive, personal issue,” Douglas told WCAX-TV in Burlington, Vt., “it’s something that individuals have to decide how to vote on based on their personal convictions and faith, and I think each legislator ought to decide personally what to do.”
Following announcement of the vote, former Democratic State Representative Robert Dostis proposed to Chuck Kletecka, his partner of 25 years, in the lobby of the state legislation building.
“It’s been a very long battle. It’s been almost 20 years to get to this point,” Dostis told the Associated Press. “I think finally, most people in Vermont understand that we’re a couple like any other couple.”
“It’s a great day for equality,” said Rep. Margaret Cheney, D-Norwich. “People saw this as an equality issue, and we’re proud that Vermont has led the way without a court order to provide equal benefits.”
Brian Brown, executive director of the National Organization for Marriage, explained in a Washington Post forum why he believes same-sex marriage is more than an issue of “equality” for homosexual couples, but an affront to the institution of marriage and the constitutional freedom of religion.
“Gay marriage does not just redefine marriage for same-sex couples – it changes marriage’s meaning for everyone,” Brown said. “Thus, in Massachusetts, after passage of same-sex marriage, Boston Catholic Charities adoptions were shut down. Why? Because the church could not adopt children to same-sex couples. The state said that this was ‘discrimination’ and allowed for no exemption.”
He continued, “When a religious organization is punished, repressed and marginalized because of its belief that marriage is the union of a man and a woman, this directly affects our religious liberty, one of our first rights. … Simply put, if you encode into the law that those of us who believe that marriage is the union of a man and a woman are bigots, why would you not expect the law to treat us as such? … Can racial bigots get professional licenses and run their practices along bigoted lines? No. Can they get radio broadcasting licenses? No. … This is a major, in my opinion, catastrophic effect of same-sex marriage.”