Veto Override Today

The Five People Who Will Decide Vermont Marriage

3367166239_0dfeff9a74On Monday, Vermont Governor Jim Douglas vetoed the bill passed by the both branches of the legislature, which allowed gay marriage in the state. Minutes after his veto, Senate leaders promised to override it, with only one member planning on rejecting to the measure. Today, all eyes are on the House, which is expected to take up the gay marriage bill at 10:30am this morning.

The bill passed the House last week by a vote of 95-52. For the House to override Douglas’ veto, they must get a two-thirds majority, which means 100 votes, just five shy of the original vote. We won’t lie to you; it’s going to be a nail biter, but here are where we think Vermont will find the five votes needed to enact marriage equality.

Expected Votes to Override

Rep. Albert “Sonny” Audette

1audette A Democrat from Burlington, Audette gave a speech last Thursday on the Floor defending his ‘no’ vote and putting it context with his Catholic faith, but now says he intends to vote to override the veto, claiming that Douglas’ actions were disrespectful. He told the A.P.:

“We in the House are just as deserving of respect as he is,” Audette, a member of the house Transportation Committee, told the news service. “He seems to think we’re nothing but a bunch of peons down there.”

Rep. Debbie Evans

1evans A Democrat from Essex, Evans joined with Audette on Friday to say she will switch her vote when the override comes up– and for the same reasons, namely that Douglas’ announcement that he was going to veto the bill while the House was taking up the issue was bad form.

House Speaker Sap Smith

picture-12 A Democrat from Morristown, the Speaker of the House usually refrains from voting, though tradition allows him to vote on veto overrides. His vote to override is expected, but his real test will be corralling enough Democrats who voted against the the bill originally to switch. He says the today’s expected vote is not a test of his leadership, as legislators must vote their conscience, not their party.

That’s three votes down. Here’s where marriage equality supporters are hoping to find the rest.

Potential Votes

Rep. Cynthia Browning

1browning A Democrat from Arlington, Browning voted against the bill, but party leaders have been leaning on her hard to change her vote, threatening that they will target her for defeat in 2010 if she doesn’t. Browning says, “People are bringing to bear all the pressure that they can.”

Rep. Richard Westman

picture-31 A Cambridge Republican, Westman did not vote on Friday, but enjoys a committee chairmanship thanks to Speaker Smith. Even if he does vote for the veto override, his vote is likely to be offset by Rep. Patty O’Donnell of Vernon, who has indicated she will vote against override.

Kenneth Atkins

1atkins A Democrat from Winooski, Atkins has indicated that he felt that Douglas “violated the legislative process by declaring his intent” to veto while the House was still debating the measure, but has not indicated whether he will vote for the veto override. He voted against the measure last week.

Rep. Richard Howrigan

1howrigan A Democrat from Fairfield, Howrigan voted against the the marriage bill, but said that he has not made up his mind about the veto. Howrigan said that he would speak over the past weekend to his brother, who is gay, by phone about his decision.–Japhy Grant