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Published:April 8th, 2009 20:19 EST
Same-Sex Marriage

Vermont's Legislature Overrides Governor's Authority to Allow Same-Sex Marriage

By Christopher HIllenbrand

On Tuesday, Vermont became the first state in the country to legalize same-sex marriage by a majority vote in the legislature. Gov. Jim Douglas vetoed the bill allowing same-sex couple to be wed lawfully in the state, but the House over-ruled the governor`s decision by the slimmest of margins.

Same-Sex Marriage

To pass the bill into effect, proponents of the motion needed two-thirds of both the state House and Senate to vote "yes". The Senate`s decision overwhelmingly approved the bill by a vote of 23-5, while the House barely met the required number: 100-49. The bill, allowing gays and lesbians to get married, will go into effect on September 1st.

With the bill`s passing, Vermont becomes the fourth state to recognize same-sex marriage as a lawful civil contract after Connecticut, Massachusetts and Iowa. But Vermont has the distinct caveat of being the only state of the four to not have passed the law based on intervention from the courts.

The enactment came days after the Iowa Supreme Court found that not permitting gays to marry was unconstitutional.

Lawmakers in Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey and New York are currently deliberating over the same bill.

Eric Davis, a retired Middlebury College political science professor, said: "For a popularly elected legislature to make this decision is a much more democratic process (on the grounds that Vermont`s lawmakers only face reelection every two years)."

Some believe that the extenuating circumstances surrounding how Vermont passed the bill may have heavily contributed to its success. Last Thursday, openly gay male and female legislators stood before their colleagues in the House and recounted how much they were in love with their life partners and that their love was just as true as any heterosexuals`.

And the consensus on the immensity of such a leap in politics is unanimous.

Boston University law professor Linda McLain, a foremost authority on family law and policy, agreed that "getting gay marriage approved in a political, rather than purely legal, forum is a big step. What may give courage to other legislatures is that this legislature managed to do it."

McLain cited how legislators used the ideals of civil rights in drawing up the bill, actually titled "the marriage equality bill", and how doing so may coax politicians, unlikely to pass a similar law otherwise, into seeing it as a civil liberty to which homosexuals also deserve.

Not everyone is jumped on board with the new idea of well-needed change however.

Brian Brown, executive director of the National Organization for Marriage who ran a radio campaign against gay civil union, remained outspoken in declaiming the motion as being contrary to the sanctity of matrimony.

Brown said: "To the millions of Americans who care about marriage, we say get ready: President Obama and Democrats will se Vermont as an excuse to overturn the bipartisan federal Defense of Marriage Act. The next step is to ask the Supreme Court to impose gay marriage on all 50 states."

The Defense of Marriage Act Brown spoke of refers to the action President Bill Clinton enacted back in 1996, which stated that marriage is a lawful bond shared by a man and a woman, and outlined that states where same-sex unions were forbidden may not recognize a gay marriage that was approved in another state.

When the news hit the House floor, cheers erupted from many of the Democrats that supported the bill. Among the revelers were retired legislator from Vermont, Robert Dostis, and his life partner for almost 25 years, Chuck Kletecka.

With his love by his side, Dostis declared: "It`s been a very long battle. It`s been almost 20 years to get to this point. I think finally, most people in Vermont understand that we`re a couple like any other couple. We`re as good and as bad as any other group of people.

During the celebration in the state assembly, Dostis made a note of how this had been a long time coming, for him and Kletecka to which his partner asked: :"Is that a proposal?"

"Yeah. Twenty-five years together, I think it`s time we finally got married," he professed with tears in his eyes.

But like the civil union motion passed in Vermont back in 2000, this bill is the latest milestone in a continung saga toward correcting the discriminatory injustices against homosexuals for which our government has been responsible.