Friday, April 03, 2009

Vermont Big (Enough?) SSM Victory

Last night, the Vermont House sat and stood up late to pass the same-sex marriage bill by 95 to 52 about 9 p.m.

That's enough to say, "We damn well thought about it and want it." Among the questions remaining are:
  • In the third reading, will there be over 100 yes votes to set up a two-thirds (100 of 150) override of Gov. Jim Douglas' promised veto?
  • Assuming not and that Douglas follows through with his anti-equality threat, will enough House members switch to yes as some have said for the override?
  • A niggling detail is whether the small changes on the House side will meet any opposition from the Senate, which strongly favored the bill in its go (26 to 4).
Yesterday's debate dragged on for some predictable reasons. The anti-equality folk did try to derail the effort by ordering a non-binding referendum, which state law permits (it is not a ballot-initiative state). That took quite a bit of posturing by the anti folk, but ended up losing solidly.

By the bye, the AP story is heavy on the anti side's arguments.

I listened to hours of the debate. It's well worth at least fast-forwarding to good parts on the Free Press site. In particularly, remarks by House members Steve Howard, Bill Lippert, Johanna Donovan and Tim Jerman blended the personal, political and legal. They are either gay or have a GLBT child. Any rep who could hear all their testimony and vote no had a very closed mind or cold, calculating heart.

This morning, the final reading and vote come. If that vote runs over 100 in favor, that will be a clear message to the governor.

Next up will be passage back to the Senate to concur or call a conference to compromise. Any such resolution is likely to happen today. (They really show Massachusetts how to be efficient in the legislature.)

Vermont Freedom to Marry predicts an override vote as early as Tuesday.

Some House members have said they would vote for an override even if they voted against the bill. Douglas' early and heavy handed announcement of his intentions did not sit well with them. Also, for another small but important detail, the two-thirds override majority is not absolute; the constitution (section 11) provides that "two-thirds of the members present of that House" can override a veto. So, if all those in favor showed up and some of the cons didn't want to stay involved, that 95 could well be plenty.

Less likely, old drama queen Douglas could keep in the spotlight by professing a change of what passes for a heart. He could not act on it and let it become law (only a five day cycle, not including Sunday, in Vermont) or say that it is clear the law has enough support. He's not too bright and is likely to veto it though.

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