Late Monday afternoon, the Vermont Senate voted 26-4 in favor of a gay marriage bill that’s quickly made its way through the Montpelier capitol. If passed, the state would begin issuing marriage licenses to gays and lesbians beginning Sept. 1. The state already recognizes civil unions, and couples who have them would be able to retain their unions, though the state would stop issuing them after Sept. 1.
If passed, the Vermont marriage bill would mark the first time a state legislature enacted gay marriage. Both Connecticut and Massachusetts marriage occurred with court intervention, and a marriage bill passed by elected officials would take some wind out of the sails of gay marriage opponents, who have characterized gay marriage as the result of the intervention of ‘activist’ courts. Don’t pull out your wedding bouquets just yet, though. The last mile is the hardest and Vermont marriage, while in tantalizing reach, still isn’t a sure thing. Here are three scenarios of how things can go.
Best Case Scenario
Tomorrow, the marriage bill will get a third reading and vote in the Senate, a motion that’s essentially a formality. The result will be a filibuster-proof vote in the Senate. In a perfect world, what would happen next is that the House would vote and pass the bill by a filibuster-proof majority as well, at which point it would go to the Governor’s office. Republican Governor Jim Douglas has said he doesn’t support gay marriage, but with filibuster proof majorities, his choices would be limited to a protest veto that would be overturned by the Vermont Congress, accepting the political reality and signing the bill or simply allowing the bill to come into law without signing it.
Betting odds: 1 in 25 chance
Most Likely Scenario
The bill passes the Senate with a filibuster-proof majority and passes the House, but not by a margin wide enough to overturn a veto from Douglas. In this case, all eyes will be on the Governor. Douglas hasn’t indicated what he would do if a gay marriage bill crossed his desk, but if the decision to allow gay marriage in Vermont wound up on his shoulders, every Republican in the country will be calling him demanding he veto the bill. Of course, Douglas doesn’t work for Republican operatives. He works for the voters, and Vermont’s brand of Republicanism is nearly unrecognizable from mainstream America’s. Douglas has also shown an evolving attitude towards gay and lesbian rights: In 2007 he signed a landmark nondiscrimination bill into law after he had vetoed it earlier. The question is, does Douglas want to go down as the first Governor to veto a gay marriage bill?
Our guess is yes. In which case, supporters will have to find votes in the House to overturn the veto. Perhaps the angry marchers and protesters that would inevitably arrive would help.
Betting odds: 1 in 5 chance.
The Way It Definitely Won’t Happen
While we’re not there yet, we should take stock that legislation allowing gays and lesbians to marry has never come as far as it has in Vermont—and so quickly. The Vermont Congress should be applauded for refuting the argument that gay marriage was too difficult an issue to tackle in the current financial environment. Instead, in less than a month, they had hearings, discussions and meeting and have put the issue up to a vote. The result is that we will shorty see the Vermont Congress a bill that will legalized gay marriage. It’s hard to believe we can make this kind of statement with such confidence, but the one thing that won’t be happening is that the bill will fail, either in the House or the Senate. That’s pretty incredible, no matter how you look at it.
Betting odds: Want to but some desert property in Burlington?