Gay activists celebrate the decision by the Iowa Supreme Court to recognize same-sex marriage as a civil right. Vermont joined Iowa, Connecticut and Massachusetts in giving gay couples the right to marry. (Photo: Getty Images)
Montpelier, Vermont - Vermont on Tuesday became the fourth state to legalize gay marriage - and the first to do so with a legislature's vote.
The House recorded a dramatic 100-49 vote, the minimum needed, to override Gov. Jim Douglas' veto. Its vote followed a much easier override vote in the Senate, which rebuffed the Republican governor with a vote of 23-5.
Vermont was the first state to legalize civil unions for same-sex couples and joins Connecticut, Massachusetts and Iowa in giving gays the right to marry. Their approval of gay marriage came from the courts.
Tuesday morning's legislative action came less than a day after Douglas issued a veto message saying the bill would not improve the lot of gay and lesbian couples because it still would not provide them rights under federal and other states' laws.
Douglas called override "not unexpected." He had called the issue of gay marriage a distraction during a time when economic and budget issues were more important.
Also see below:
DC Council Votes to Recognize Other States' Gay Marriages â€¢
"What really disappoints me is that we have spent some time on an issue during which another thousand Vermonters have lost their jobs," the governor said Tuesday. "We need to turn out attention to balancing a budget without raising taxes, growing the economy, putting more people to work."
House Speaker Shap Smith's announcement of the vote brought an outburst of jubilation from some of the hundreds packed into the gallery and the lobby outside the House chamber, despite the speaker's admonishment against such displays.
Among the celebrants in the lobby were former Rep. Robert Dostis, D-Waterbury, and his longtime partner, Chuck Kletecka. Dostis recalled efforts to expand gay rights dating to an anti-discrimination law passed in 1992.
"It's been a very long battle. It's been almost 20 years to get to this point," Dostis said. "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. And now I think we have a chance to prove ourselves here on forward that we're good members of our community."
Dostis said he and Kletecka will celebrate their 25th year together in September.
"Is that a proposal?" Kletecka asked.
"Yeah," Dostis replied. "Twenty-five years together, I think it's time we finally got married."
Craig Bensen, a gay marriage opponent who had lobbied unsuccessfully for a nonbinding referendum on the question, said he was disappointed but believed gay marriage opponents were outspent by supporters by a 20-1 margin.
"The other side had a highly funded, extremely well-oiled machine with all the political leadership except the governor pushing to make this happen," he said. "The fact that it came down to this tight a vote is really astounding."
Also in the crowd was Michael Feiner, a farmer from Roxbury and gay marriage supporter, who took a break from collecting sap for maple syrup-making to come to the Statehouse.
"I'm taking a break to come and basically make sure that I was here to witness history," he said.
The House had initially approved the bill last week with a 95-52 vote. Smith and his leadership team worked through the weekend to try to persuade some legislators to change their minds.
One who did was first-term Rep. Jeff Young, D-St. Albans. He said he continued to be philosophically opposed to gay marriage, but decided that voting with his fellow Democrats would help him be an effective legislator in the future.
"You realize that, you know, it's a poker game in some ways," Young said. "Chips on the table. I'm a freshman. I have no chips. If I ... had 20 years of chips, I probably could play any card I want. I don't have that option."
He added, "It's the way the political game is played."
DC Council Votes to Recognize Other States' Gay Marriages
Tuesday 07 April 2009
The D.C. Council voted today to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states, on the same day that Vermont became the fourth state to legalize same-sex unions.
Domestic partnerships are already legal in the nation's capital, and gay couples married in other states are recognized as domestic partners when they move to the city. But today's legislation, billed as an important milestone in gay rights, explicitly recognizes them as married couples.
The initial vote was 12-0. The unanimous vote sets the stage for future debate on legalizing same-sex marriage in the District and a clash with Congress, which approves the city's laws under Home Rule. The council is expected to take a final vote on the legislation next month.
Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who is gay, called the amendment a matter of "basic fairness."
The city's laws on same-sex unions have been murky, he explained. Couples ask, he said, "Is my marriage valid in D.C.? For years now, it has not been clear."
"It's high time we send a clear, unequivocal message to those persons of the same sex and married in another jurisdiction that their marriage is valid in D.C.," said Graham, who added, "I hope this city recognizes this is a human rights struggle."
Council member David A. Catania (I-At Large), who is also gay, predicted it was only a matter of time before the council also takes up a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in the District. "It's no secret that I have been working on legislation that would take us further," he said. "This is the march toward human rights and equality. This is not the march toward special rights. This is the equal march and that march is coming here."
Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), who has been chipping away at barriers for same-sex couples for years, said he saw the legislation as one that is in keeping with the city's laws. "Some are saying it's an important step. I am saying it's a simple step," said Mendelson, who authored the legislation.
Council member Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5) called the amendment "long overdue."
"We as a council need to stand in the right place and take the gray area out," he said.