First came Vermont’s politicians looking to what happened with gay marriage coming to Connecticut. Then there were the activists who started pushing for full marriage equality throughout New England. Then came Vermont State Sen. John Campbell saying he planned to introduce a bill to legalize gay marriage. And then came Vermont State Reps. Mark Larson and David Zuckerman actually putting the bill in front of legislators last month. And now? And now there’s support from Vermont’s politicos, who already managed to legalize civil unions, to push the equality bill through both houses. Might this be a big year in Montpelier?
“Passing this bill is the right thing to do at this time,” said Sen. Peter Shumlin, D-Vt. President Pro Tem.
Shumlin and Rep. Shap Smith, D-Vt. House Speaker, plan to push a marriage equality bill quickly through both chambers.
“The world has changed a lot since 2000,” said Beth Robinson, an advocate of gay marriage.
Gay marriage advocates say civil unions were so controversial because Vermont was the first in the nation to legalize them.
But they’ve since paved the way for gay marriage in other states.
“Civil unions were a breakthrough at the time. But we never thought that civil unions created full equal rights for gay and lesbian Vermonters,” Robinson said. “It’s hard for me to imagine anyone would think that recognizing and respecting their lifetime partnership takes anything away from anybody else.”
Robinson says full marriage rights offer same-sex couples more legal protections and the pride of being able to say you’re married.
“We are changing the definition of marriage,” said Craig Bensen, who opposes gay marriage.
Gay marriage opponents say marriage should remain between a man and a woman– anything else threatens the institution of marriage.
“It is not a positive social good to create a permanent class of motherless and fatherless children,” Bensen said.
Gov. Jim Douglas, R-Vermont, says this is not the time. He says it’s too divisive of an issue when lawmakers should be working on the economic crisis.