Nearly 1,000 people
crowded into the house chamber in Montpelier, V.T. on Wednesday
evening to testify about a gay marriage bill before the house
and senate judiciary committees. Legislators heard three hours
of passionate testimony on questions such as the purpose of
marriage and the meaning of family.
Burlington Free Pressreported
that about 70 Vermonters spoke from 200 who signed up to speak.
Among those registered to testify, 115 were in favor of gay
marriage and 85 were against it.
Many gay marriage
supporters spoke about the separate but equal status conferred
by civil unions, which Vermont legalized in 2000, becoming the
first state to do so.
"I am tired of
sitting quietly to the side. I am tired of being a second-class
citizen," said Brad Peacock of Shaftsbury.
The senate judiciary
committee is expected to vote on the legislation by Friday,
after which it will move to the house. Both chambers of the
legislature are controlled by Democrats, although it is unclear
whether they can muster the votes to override a potential veto
from Governor Jim Douglas, a Republican, who has said he
believes lawmakers should be focused on other priorities, such
as the economy, right now.
If the legislation
succeeds, gay marriages would begin in September.
Senator Kevin Mullin, a
Republican member of the judiciary committee, proposed on
Tuesday that the process in the legislature is rushed. He said
he would offer an amendment to delay the committee vote and
call for a non-binding statewide referendum on gay marriage in
2010. Observers regard his effort as a long shot.