Vermont Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage; Legislature Overturns Governor's Veto

By Christine Cupaiuolo — April 7, 2009

AP photoNine years after becoming the first state to offer civil unions, Vermont is now the fourth state to allow same-sex marriage.

Lawmakers voted this morning to override Gov. James Douglas’ veto of a bill allowing gays and lesbians to marry.

In doing so, Vermont became the first state to allow same-sex marriage through a legislative ruling instead of a court order. The law takes effect Sept. 1.

The vote was 23-5 to override in the state Senate and 100-49 to override in the House. The vote went down to the wire in the House: Two-thirds was needed for an override, and the outcome wasn’t clear until the final moments of the roll call.

“We are not done yet until every lawmaker who voted yes gets 1,000 thank you cards,” Beth Robinson (pictured above in the center), an attorney with the group Vermont Freedom to Marry, said at a rally after the vote. “We’re not done yet until every person who voted for this is reelected in 2010.”

Other states permitting same-sex marriage are Massachusetts, Connecticut and, as of last week, Iowa.

This New York Times story includes a look at the Northeast as the main battleground over gay marriage:

Massachusetts became the first state in the country to make same-sex marriage a reality in 2004 when its supreme court ruled that it was required under the state’s Constitution, which contains an equal-protection clause. Connecticut followed in April 2009.

Two other states in the region recognize civil unions — New Jersey and New Hampshire — and gay rights advocates have waged a campaign in hopes of making same-sex marriage legal in every state in New England by 2012. Before Tuesday, Vermont, like New Jersey and New Hampshire, had also allowed civil unions, a step that gay rights advocates say helps ease the transition to laws allowing same-sex marriage. Just last month, the House of Representatives in New Hampshire voted narrowly to approve a bill to legalize such marriages, which moves to the state Senate and could be considered there as early as this week.

But organizers in Maine and Rhode Island have opposed the civil-union approach, which they say makes same-sex couples appear unequal. Instead, they have sought to change the laws directly. In Rhode Island, for example, gay rights advocates plan to wait until 2011, when the Republican governor, Donald L. Carcieri, who opposes gay marriage, leaves office.

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