Civil Unions & SSM in Vermont:
Background, legislation, responses
"There's nothing in this court decision, nothing in this bill, nothing in the committed relationships
of two people that presents a threat to my marriage." Vermont state Senator James Leddy
"The extension of the Common Benefits Clause to acknowledge
plaintiffs as Vermonters who seek nothing more, nor less, than legal
protection and security for their avowed commitment to an intimate and
lasting human relationship is simply, when all is said and done, a
recognition of our common humanity." Chief Justice Jeffrey L. Amestoy, Vermont Supreme Court.
"Civil unions are a counterfeit version of marriage that will
diminish the value of marriage. It is important for people to understand
that the argument has shifted from talk about tolerance and a right to
homosexual relations based on a right to privacy to explicit public
approval. And that's profound in its implications." Mark Regan, of
the Family Research Council. 1
Recognition of same-sex relationships in Vermont:
Under an order from the state Supreme Court, the Vermont Senate gave final approval to
a bill to create civil unions in Vermont on
2000-APR-19. The House voted on APR-25 to accept the Senate version. The governor
signed the bill into law on APR-26.
Same-sex couples, composed of gays, lesbians and/or bisexuals, were able to
obtain their civil union certificates starting on 2000-JUL-01. Justices of the peace and clergy are under no obligation
to conduct civil union ceremonies; a few refused to do so.
Vermont was the second U.S. state to legally recognize same-sex couples as
more than roommates. California was first. Same-sex couples who obtain a civil union
in Vermont are given the same rights, privileges, obligations and
responsibilities as Vermont has always given to married couples. However, they
are still denied the approximately 1,050 federal "rights, benefits and
privileges" that are routinely given to married couples.
In 2007-AUG, a Commission started to study the possibility of allowing
loving, committed same-sex couples to marry.
By 2009-MAR, a bill legalizing SSM was passed unanimously through the Senate
Judiciary Committee. It passed in the House and Senate, but was vetoed by the
Governor. The House and Senate overrode the governor's veto, and authorized SSM
in the state.
Loving, committed same-sex couples have been able to obtain marriage licenses since
No rights were taken away from opposite-sex married couples in the
implementation of this legislation, except the right to be the exclusive type of
couple who can be validly married. However, that was sufficient to fuel strong opposition to marriage equality, particularly among religious and social conservatives.