A bill introduced in the Vermont house of representatives would allow gay couples to marry. Partners in a civil union would be able to convert their union to a marriage by filling out a simple application under the provisions of a bill introduced by Rep. David Zuckerman. While the measure has little chance of becoming law, Zuckerman said same-sex partnerships should be afforded the same level of legal recognition as marriage.
"There are many instances of separate but not equal in the past," said Zuckerman, who has said Vermont's first-in-the-nation civil unions law doesn't go far enough. "And while I know this issue is going nowhere in either direction, I've never been one to settle for partial accomplishment."
In addition to allowing civil union partners the option of marriage, the bill would permit same-sex marriage outright, ending the need for future civil unions. The bill would also require the state to recognize gay marriages and civil unions conducted in other states and countries. The bill is meant to counter a proposed amendment to the state constitution that was introduced earlier this year in the senate, Zuckerman said. The amendment, introduced by Sen. Mark Shepard, would define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
Civil unions, which provide same-sex couples state-level rights and benefits of marriage, were mandated by the Vermont supreme court in 1999 and signed into law by former governor Howard Dean in 2000. Since the law's passage, more than 5,800 same-sex couples have entered into the agreements. Vermont's measure was the first in the country to give any marriage benefits to gay and lesbian partnerships. In 2003 a Canadian court ruled that same-sex couples must be allowed to marry, and the Massachusetts supreme judicial court ordered that state's legislature to come up with same-sex marriage provisions within the next couple of months.