Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Vermont Legislature Favors Same-Sex 'Marriage'

Little more than five years after the Supreme Judicial Court legalized marriage for same-sex couples in Massachusetts, gay advocates say they're coming closer to their goal of extending gay marriage to all New England states by 2012.

-- From "Same-sex marriage bills gain in N.E." by David Abel, Boston Globe Staff 3/24/09

In a special session, the Vermont Senate yesterday voted to legalize same-sex marriage. Later this week, a similar bill is scheduled for a vote in the New Hampshire House of Representatives. Next month a legislative panel in Maine will hold a hearing on a bill to allow gay couples to marry, just as lawmakers did last month in Rhode Island.

"One of the advantages of New England is that we share geography and media markets, so folks in other states have seen marriage in Massachusetts for five years and can see the good," said Lee Swislow, executive director of the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, who has called for New England to be a "marriage equality zone." "I think the efforts build on each other. What happens in one state inspires folks in other states, and hopefully it will inspire the rest of the country."

Last year, Connecticut joined Massachusetts to become the second state in the country to allow same-sex marriage. Vermont, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and California permit civil unions, but advocates for gay marriage say it does not afford the same rights as marriage.

That argument did not resonate yesterday in Vermont, where senators voted 26-4 in favor of same-sex marriage. The bill will be taken up later this week in the House, where lawmakers said it is expected to win a majority vote, though by a thinner margin.

"This was a tremendous victory for equal rights," said Senator John Campbell, majority leader of the Vermont Senate and chief sponsor of the bill. "Vermont will be the first state to enact this legislation without a court order. It was pretty clear that the facts dictated this. This is an equal rights issue."

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