The Vermont senate
overwhelmingly approved a bill on Monday that, if passed, would
grant same-sex couples rights to marry in the state.
The senate approved the
motion 26-4 on the second reading of the bill. The final
reading, which will take place on Tuesday, is
considered largely a formality, and the vote is not
expected to change significantly.
There was a fierce
debate on the bill, with arguments representing the full
spectrum of opinions. Sen. John Campbell, chair of the senate
judiciary committee and chief sponsor of the bill, said
legislators had the duty to uphold the law while protecting
"We have taken an
oath to ensure that we do not pass any law that is
unconstitutional or that we find unequal," he said.
"We will defend the Bible in church, and we will defend
the constitution in here."
that the bill would not require religious institutions to
perform marriage ceremonies for gay and lesbian couples. He
also said the state would not change the language of
paperwork from "bride and groom" to gender-neutral
Campbell drove home his
observed cries of segregation from his Republican cohorts.
Republicans talk about gay marriage, it's always,
'they' and 'those people have enough rights,'
'those people should be arrested because that lifestyle is
criminal.' ... But they are our policemen. They are our
firefighters. They are our teachers. They are our garbagemen.
They're our children, our brothers, and our
Sen. Kevin Mullins, who
voted for the measure in the committee, backed a proposal to
stage a nonbinding referendum in 2010 for Vermonters
to weigh in on whether the state should grant marriages to
Sen. Phil Scott agreed,
saying that many of his constituents who contacted him wanted a
chance to voice their opinions on the bill since the
"rapid pace" of its progress prevented them
from doing so (there was, however, a hearing March 18 for
voters to speak out about it). The nonbinding referendum would
be a way for voters to express their feelings about the
it's part of the healing process," Scott said.
"I'm sure there's going to be a lot of healing
that will have to take place. I believe the nonbinding
referendum would help. It wouldn't pass, but there would be
a better feeling amongst Vermonters."
Sen. Dick Sears
countered that allowing a vote, especially so far in the
future, would bring out-of-state interests into Vermont, much
like what happened with California's Proposition 8.
After some debate the
proposal for the March 2010 referendum failed 19-11.
Rep. Mark Larson
introduced the bill in the house in January with the backing of
59 other representatives. The house judiciary committee will
begin taking testimony on Tuesday and expects it to take about
a week for the bill to get to a floor vote.
A commission of
legislative leaders formed last April to discuss whether the
state should allow same-sex couples to marry. Though the panel
concluded that instituting same-sex marriage would be positive
for the state, it stopped short of suggesting that the state
grant such marriage rights.