Friday, February 06, 2009

Vermont Panting Behind with SSM

Politically, Vermont seems an odd duck, including with GLBT rights. Rush. Sit. Rush. Sit.

Nine years ago, under orders from their Supreme Court, the legislature passed the first civil unions law in the nation. Today, the 150-member House is looking at a bill to legalize same-sex marriage. It started out great, with 59 co-sponsors. Lead sponsors were the two usual suspects, equality supporters Mark Larson and David Zuckerman of Burlington.

A similar bill will appear in the 60-member senate this session as well.

According to the AP, word from supporters is that the nasty, prolonged battle over civil unions is history. They don't expect that much struggle.

However, as in the rest of the region and nation, the economic chaos dominates the legislature in Vermont. As a result, equality supporters, including Speaker of the House Shap Smith, aren't sure there's the time for this bill. As he put it, "We're still trying to decide whether it's something that we would do this year."

The bill is H. 178., with the telling title An Act to Protect Religious 16 Freedom and Promote Equality in Civil Marriage.

It's pretty simple. For the clergy side, they can refuse solemnization of a same-sex marriage, claiming First Amendment rights.

The existing law defining marriage (Sec. 3. 15 V.1 S.A. § 8) replaces "one man and one woman" with "two people" in the "Marriage is the legally recognized union" start. Then there is some nice tap dancing about wherever laws, regulations and policies read bride, groom and so forth, think gender neutral. Then it strikes the civil unions section (Sec. 4. 15 V.S.A. § 1202[2]) working that excludes same-sex couples from marriage laws. Finally, it repeals the old definition of marriage in 15 V.S.A. § 1201(4).

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