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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex marriage (SSM) in Vermont

2008: Legislature approves SSM. Comments.
SSM becomes available. Poll two years later.

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Senate/House vote; the veto; the veto override:

The Senate passed the bill overwhelmingly with a vote of 26 to 4 on 2009-MAR-25. Also on that date, Governor Jim Douglas (R) said that he would veto the bill if it is passed by the Legislature. He planned to override the will of the citizens of Vermont as expressed during the 2008 hearings, of the legislators in the Senate, and of the legislators in the House.

The House passed the bill on APR-02, with a vote of 95 to 52 after an intense four hour debate. This was five "yes" votes short of the number required to overturn the expected governor's veto. The bill then went to the Governor.

He kept his word, and vetoed the bill on APR-06. The Senate and House  then had the opportunity to vote on the bill again. To override the veto, they needed a 2/3rds super majority. There was no problem with a Senate override; they voted 23 to 5 in favor on APR-07 . An hour later, the House voted was a squeaker. The final vote was 100 to 49 in favor of a legislative override -- the absolute minimum required to obtain a 2/3 super majority.

As of 2009-APR-07, same-sex couples were able marry in two American states: Connecticut and Massachusetts. Later that month, they became able to marry in Iowa. Same-sex couples in Vermont were able to purchase their marriage licenses on 2009-SEP-01. 1 Same-sex marriage was permitted in California throughout most of 2008. However, this has since been at least temporarily suspended by Proposition 8.

Vermont is the first state to legalize SSM by a legislative initiative without an order from a state court.

The bill could be repealed at any time by this or a subsequent legislature.

Beth Robinson, chairperson of the Vermont Freedom To Marry Task Force, said:

"I'm thrilled and I'm proud of Vermont for what we did and how we conducted this conversation. I think it speaks well of all of us. You don't get a super majority like this without lawmakers sticking their necks out. I'm just really grateful."

Some residents said they hoped the new law would be a boon to the state's economy. Donna Gaulin, 37, of Brookfield said:

"If more people are going to come here to get married, that could bring a lot of money to the state. Anything that would improve our economy is a good thing. We don't judge people."

David Goldstein, 43, of Montpelier, is unemployed. He felt the legislature should have given the economy a higher priority. He said:

"I don't have a problem with this, but there are a lot of other priorities."

Joseph L. Krawczyk Jr., (R-Bennington) voted against the bill during the veto override.  He hopes that the public will vote those in favor of the bill out of office at the next election. He said:

"They're going to have to live with the consequences. This does not reflect the true values of Vermonters. It does not reflect my values nor does it reflect those of my constituents."

Actually, over the years 2008 and 2009 about 53% of Vermonters approved of SSM.

Comments by individual citizens:

Judging by the comments posted to The Boston Globe article, Krawczyk's opinion represents a small minority in Vermont. The Globe received more than a gross of comments within the first 24 hours. Most were decidedly in favor of SSM, although there were quite a few postings that were removed by the webmaster, presumably for offensive comment. Some excerpts were:

bullet "mynameisbob" wrote: "Research shows that same-sex attraction is a developmental misstep and, with proper education, can be prevented. ... While we have sympathy for those who struggle with same-sex attraction, society does not accord civil rights based on a behavior pattern. ... It is an attempt to change the meaning of the word marriage in order to put a cosmetic face on an abnormal lifestyle."
bullet "Ashleykate" wrote: "As a born and bred Vermonter, I could not be more proud. ... Those who truly feel that all human beings are equal, regardless of sexual predilection, have never had a problem with same-sex marriage. It's the people who don't want to think of homosexuality existing at all that have issues with this new law."
bullet "Guzzi1" wrote: "How can any thinking person be against this?  Who's business is it other than the folks involved? ..."
bullet "334856" wrote: "... All this [law] does is allow legal status for them. No one should be denied the right of equal protection or status for any cause which does not impinge on another person's rights. As the Iowa court stated: there is no compelling state interest to deny this right."
bullet "00lisa00" wrote: "Just reading some of the comments above... I seriously don't understand why so many people have a problem with gay marriage. It's not like anyone is forcing them into a gay marriage. Really how is it any of their business? I think it's very wrong of them to enforce their religious and/or closed-minded views on a minority group. It's very mean."
bullet "EWAdams" wrote: "What's being redefined is the LEGAL conception of marriage -- it's being expanded to make it more inclusive. The religious and spiritual concepts are not changed by the law, but by their believers. The law is not about biology or religion. The law is about justice and equal rights. Vermont is now a fairer place for all. This should not bother anybody."
bullet "BrooklineTom" wrote: "James Carville summed it up in his typically succinct fashion: 'I was steadfastly opposed to gay marriage, until I realize that I did not have to do it myself'."
bullet "gerryfisher" wrote: "Right now, people over 60 are polling hugely against marriage equality. Middle aged people like me are polling at about 50/50. And people under 30 are polling hugely for marriage equality. In twenty years, when the Greatest Generation has passed and when there will be a clear majority in favor of marriage equality, will it then be more 'right' because more people agree with it?

In MA, before marriage equality became legal, a slight majority opposed it. Five years later, I think that the polls are at approximately 60% in favor. Is marriage equality 'more right' now that a majority of citizens favor it?"
bullet "nimitta" wrote: "... I can tell you from personal experience that neither my heterosexual marriage nor my family has been affected in any way negatively by the legalization of same sex marriage in Massachusetts. I defy any Massachusetts citizen to name one single harm our state’s law has caused them, apart from the way it seems to conflict with what they were taught as kids about some sort of divine law. If you suffer from this internal conflict, friend, I feel for you. Please consider carefully, though: which law has really hurt you?" 1
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Marriages become available to all loving, committed couples:

As of midnight on the morning of 2009-SEP-01, same-sex marriages became available in Vermont., a Catholic news source, reported:

"Vermont became the fourth state to legally redefine 'marriage' on April 7th, and the first state to do so through legislation rather than through the courts.  The new law gives full marriage rights to same-sex couples who choose to 'marry'." 2

This is factually incorrect. The new law only gives same-sex couples a few hundred state benefits. The approximately 1,050 federal benefits automatically given to opposite-sex couples are denied same-sex couples because of the federal DOMA law.

LifeSiteNews follows the convention of many religious conservatives by enclosing the word "marriage" in quotation marks to indicate that they do not recognize same-sex marriages, and wish to to denigrate the significance of same-sex relationships.

Shari Rendall, director of legislation and policy for Concerned Women for America, told Focus on the Family's CitizenLink that the legislation is a disaster for America. She said:

"Marriage between one man and one woman is critical to maintaining social stability. Society as a whole pays a high price when marriage is devalued.  You see divorce; you see single-parenting; you see a rise in out-of-wedlock pregnancies."

Available data seems to contradict Ms. Rendall's beliefs. In mid 2005, Massachusetts became the first state in the U.S. to permit same-sex marriage. More than five years later, Massachusetts leads the remaining 49 states in having the lowest divorce rate.

While there is general agreement that marriage makes a very important positive effect on social stability, there does not appear to be any evidence that only opposite-sex couples can contribute in this way. Also, there is no consensus that SSM devalues marriage. Some argue that it simply opens the institution to previously excluded couples who are enthusiastically pro-marriage.

2011-AUG: Two years later: Poll shows most Vermont voters support SSM law and SSM:

Public Policy Polling conducted a poll of Vermong voters almost two years after SSM became available in the state. When asked whether same-sex marriage should be legal or illegal, results were:

  • 58% legal(Women were 64% in favor!; men 53%)
  • 33% illegal (Women 29%; men 38%)
  • 9% no answer or didn't answer.

When given three options, Vermont voters responded:

  • 55% agreed that "Gay couples should be allowed to legally marry." (Women were 50% in favor; men 50%)
  • 24% agreed that "Gay couples should be allowed to form civil unions but not marry." (Women 25%; men 24%)
  • 18% agreed that "There should be no legal recognition of a gay couple's relationship" (Women 13%; men 24%)
  • 3% did not reply or had no opinion.

When asked whether "the legalization of gay marriage in Vermont had a positive or negative impact on your life, or has it not had any impact at all? the response was:

  • 60% chose no impact.
  • 22% chose positive impact.
  • 18% chose negative impact.

Unfortunately, the pollsters did not seem to ask the 40% what kind of impact(s) SSM had on their life. The poll was taken between 2011-JUL-28 and 31 among 1,233 Vermont voters. The margin of error is ±2.8 percentage points.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. David Abel, "Vermont legalizes same-sex marriage: 11th-hour change of heart ends veto," The Boston Globe, 2009-APR-08, at:
  2. Patrick B. Craine, "Same-Sex 'Marriages' Begin Today in Vermont,", 2009-SEP-01, at:
  3. "Vermont supports gay marriage, single-payer health care," Public Policy Polling, 2011-AUG-05, at: This is a PDF file.

Copyright © 2009 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
First posted: 2009-MAR-21
Last updated: 2011-AUG-11
Author: B.A. Robinson

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