We here at Queerty are big fans of the United States, the nation that bore us, Celebrity Jeopardy, the hamburger and that whole representative democracy thing. It’s a nation rich in natural resources, can-do attitude and homosexuals, and each week, we’re visiting a new state to find out just what makes it so uniquely fabulous.
Leader in Liberty
For the state that ranks 49 out of 50 in population, the Green Mountain State has had an outsized impact on the nation as a whole. The first state in the nation to grant civil unions for gays and lesbians and as of yesterday, the first to enact gay marriage by legislation, Vermont has had a long history of standing up for civil rights causes, be it abolition or women’s suffrage. Briefly an independent republic, Vermonters pride themselves on being iconoclasts; Senator Bernie Sanders is the Congress’ sole democratic socialist. Vermont consistently ranks as the healthiest and smartest state in the country and while it was a Republican stronghold until the 90s, it now votes reliably Democratic, partly due to the conservative shift in the G.O.P., but we suspect there’s probably something in the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream that has something to do with it, too.
The Fight For Your Rights
Normally, this is the part of the show where we detail the various political fights for gay rights in the state in question. It’s pretty thrilling that we could write, “This space left intentionally blank” and leave it blank, but to fill you in: Vermont offers employment nondiscrimination for people regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity, it has passed hate crime legislation protecting gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders and as you may have heard, gays and lesbians can marry in the state, the 4th in the nation to do so. Because of the state’s demographics and the way the the legislative process works in Vermont, it’s highly unlikely that any of these measure will be overturned for the foreseeable future.
If you’re really looking for something, we suppose Vermont could look to drafting a constitutional amendment enshrining these rights, but most likely, Vermont’s gay activists will be looking neighboring New Hampshire and Maine, which are both considering marriage equality measures, and joining the fight there.
Rainbow Cattle Company
East Dummerston, VT
We’re not going to lie to you; there’s not much in the way of gay-specific nightlife in Vermont. This is a testament to Vermont’s inclusive mixed atmosphere, but if you really want to get your gay on, Rainbow Cattle Company, just outside Brattleboro is open Thursdays to Sundays and offers up drag shows and a monthly leather night. The house shot is a “Hot F**k” and the bar’s owners promise you won’t leave without one.
Jason Pelletier is a 29-year old business owner of a creative agency in Burlington, with his partner Bradley Holt (Jason’s the one on the right, Bradley is the one on the left). Originally from New Hampshire, Pelletier went to school in Ohio before settling on Vermont. Jason and Bradley already have a civil union, but plan on marrying in September, as he puts it, “for our three year anniversary.”
What’s the best part about living in Vermont?
I think the big thing is that other people have been attracted or stay here for the same reasons you have. I’ve never felt that in New Hampshire or Ohio. It feels very intentional. People want to be here. You have a lot in common in terms of overall belief structures, be they political or otherwise. Similar things brought us all here. It’s kind of a special thing you feel here when you walk around. Burlington is a city of 40,000 and it’s the population hub of the state and you can definitely feel that energy of others like you around.
In Vermont, I definitely feel much more a part of a political process than I did [when living] in New Hampshire… It’s been a huge thing here, for us. You know, you can go to the State House and sit in the House chamber. This is a small scale thing. You really can participate in your government. We went to one of the public hearings they had a few weeks ago and I was sitting in one of the legislator’s seats on the floor during testimony. Pretty neat.
What’s the biggest problem facing gays and lesbians in Vermont?
In terms of finding other people within the community, that’s why [the marriage legislation movement] has actually been great, because it has brought people out and made them aware of those social connections that already exist. Frankly, Twitter is the same thing. It’s brought people out electronically to be aware of each other. There are very few social opportunities to connect with other people who are gay and lesbian. Somebody said tonight, “So, what gay place are you going to go to celebrate?” and I was like, “There’s a gay place to go to?” There aren’t places where people can gather. There’s this feeling of isolation and this process has made people aware that they’re not so isolated.
Describe your average Vermont gay.
I’m so going to regret this later, I know it. Gay men in Vermont are typically, it’s the flannel crew. It’s the lumberjacks, you know? Bradley is over here laughing. I guess the generalization would be that we’re outdoorsy. We’re tactile. We’re hands on. This is a tough one. This is exactly what we’re not supposed to do!
How did Vermont wind up with a Republican governor who would veto the country’s first legislative passage of gay marriage?
I know, it’s so progressive on so many things, right? It’s interesting for a state to clearly go for Obama. It’s a tricky one. In Burlington, we’ve had a Progressive Party mayor for decades. Part of it might be the balance of having different viewpoints instead of having everyone all on one side or the other. I was surprised too that he would so driven not by constituents, but by personal beliefs, which I think is pretty obvious.
If there’s one thing a gay person visiting Vermont should do, what is it?
It would be outdoor type of stuff. If they were visiting this part of the state, it would be getting on the water of Lake Champlain. It would be getting on a boat, sailboat or otherwise. It’s an interesting perspective to see a city from the water and see the landscape. It’s definitely one of the biggest assets up here.
What’s one misconception about the state you’d like to clear up?
A lot of times we get a reputation for– you know, it’s a small state and we move things forward. You know, Vermont’s taken the leadership role a number of times, from slavery to civil unions and marriage and always looking at a different approach to doing things in businesses– in terms of smaller scale and looking at sustainability. I think the state, a lot of times gets a reputation for being simple in a negative way, in a rural way. It’s done a none a nice job of balancing rural with progress.
Seven down, forty-three to go. Each week until we’re done, Queerty will be traveling to a new state and meeting the gays. We love featuring our readers, so if you think you’re Model Citizen material, shoot us an email at [email protected]. We’d love to hear from you.