Vermont lifts drive for gay marriage
Vermont on Tuesday became the fourth state to recognize gay marriage, and the District of Columbia Council voted to recognize same-sex unions performed in other states. The two actions give same-sex- marriage proponents new momentum, after a similar victory last week in Iowa's Supreme Court.
The Washington Post
Other states' lawsMarriage: Iowa's Supreme Court last week ruled marriage can't exclude gays, and Connecticut and Massachusetts allow gay marriage as a result of court decisions. California briefly allowed it last year, before voters repealed it.
Civil unions: In New Hampshire and New Jersey, same-sex civil unions entail the same rights and responsibilities as marriage, but activists are seeking full marriage rights. New Hampshire's House passed a marriage bill in March; it awaits a Senate vote. New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine has pledged to sign a gay-marriage bill introduced in the Legislature.
Domestic partnerships: California, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia have domestic-partnership laws extending many benefits of marriage to same-sex couples.
Constitutional bans: Voters in 29 states have approved state constitutional amendments banning gay marriage: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin. Hawaii voters approved a constitutional amendment letting the Legislature outlaw same-sex marriage, which it did in 1998.
Defense of Marriage Act: The federal government is barred from recognizing same-sex unions.
Reciprocity: New York doesn't allow same-sex marriage but recognizes those performed elsewhere. The District of Columbia Council on Tuesday gave preliminary approval to a bill requiring recognition of gay marriages in other states.
The Associated Press
NEW YORK — Vermont on Tuesday became the fourth state to recognize gay marriage, and the District of Columbia Council voted to recognize same-sex unions performed in other states. The two actions give same-sex- marriage proponents new momentum, after a similar victory last week in Iowa's Supreme Court.
"I think we're going to look back at this week as a moment when our entire country turned a corner," said Jennifer Pizer, the national marriage project director for the advocacy group Lambda Legal. "Each time there's an important step forward, it makes it easier for others to follow."
The issue also is advancing in New Hampshire, where legislation has passed the state House and is awaiting action by the Senate, as well as in Maine and New Jersey, which are debating same-sex- marriage measures.
New Jersey, which now allows civil unions for gay couples, is a particular prize for advocates because of its large size, and they are hoping for action this year after a commission in December recommended making marriage laws gender-neutral. Gov. Jon Corzine has said he would sign a same-sex-marriage bill.
New York recognizes same-sex marriages performed in other states, and Gov. David Paterson has said he supports full marriage rights for same-sex couples. And the California Supreme Court must decide before early June whether Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in the Golden State about five months after it became legal, was a valid use of the referendum power.
A Washington state law, upheld by the state Supreme Court three years ago, limits marriage to a man and a woman. But the state also has a domestic-partnership law that extends many benefits of marriage to same-sex couples. A bill pending in the state Senate would expand those benefits to everything short of the word "marriage."
The action Tuesday in Vermont came swiftly, surprising even some gay-marriage proponents who were still celebrating their victory Friday, when the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriages could go ahead.
The two houses of the Vermont Legislature voted last week for a same-sex-marriage bill — four votes short of a veto-overriding majority — and Gov. Jim Douglas, a Republican, vetoed it Monday. But several House members who voted no last week switched sides Tuesday to support the override, making gay marriage law.
The final vote to override the veto was 100-49. The initial vote last week was 94-52. Vermont has no mechanism for a citizen referendum to override the law.
"All of us are thrilled at the pace," said Jennifer Chrisler, executive director of the Massachusetts-based Family Equality Council, which advocates for gay rights. "This is a great day."
With the Vermont vote and the D.C. Council action, Chrisler said, "I think this is a very significant indicator of how the tide is turning in this country and folks recognize that this is about love and commitment."
"The arc of history is long but bends toward justice," she added.
Opponents said they, too, believe activists will be emboldened.
"To the millions of Americans who care about marriage, we say get ready: President Obama and Democrats will use Vermont as an excuse to overturn the bipartisan federal Defense of Marriage Act," said Brian Brown, executive director of the National Organization for Marriage, which waged a radio campaign against the Vermont measure. "The next step is to ask the Supreme Court to impose gay marriage on all 50 states."
The Defense of Marriage Act, signed into law by President Clinton in 1996, defines marriage as a legal union between a man and a woman, and provides that states need not recognize the marriage of a same-sex couple from another state.
The Vermont vote Tuesday was particularly symbolic for activists because the state nine years ago became the first to legalize civil unions between same-sex couples. Seen at the time as revolutionary, Vermont in recent years has seen other states surpass it by legalizing same-sex marriage.
Gay marriage is prohibited by law in 43 states — 29 with constitutional amendments specifically defining marriage as between a man and a woman — but many are facing court challenges. Gay activists also hope to challenge the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
Domestic partnerships are legal in the nation's capital, and gay couples married in other states are recognized as domestic partners.
The Associated Press and Seattle Times staff contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company
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