Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Vermont Ends Gay Couples' Exclusion From Marriage

"Dear Freedom to Marry Friends:
The Vermont legislature today overrode a veto by the governor and decisively passed a bill to end the exclusion of gay couples from marriage. Vermont now joins Iowa, Massachusetts, and Connecticut in upholding the freedom to marry.
"With a decisive vote of its legislature, Vermont today moved past civil union to full equality in marriage," said Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry and author of Why Marriage Matters: America, Equality and Gay People's Right to Marry. "Following the Iowa Supreme Court's unanimous freedom to marry decision last week, Vermont shows that the arc of justice is now bending toward equality for all."
Vermont is the fourth state to uphold the freedom to marry, the first to do so through the legislature. Following a decision by the Vermont Supreme Court in 1999 directing the state to provide marital protections and benefits to gay couples, Vermont was the first state to create civil unions in 2000. Today's action by the legislature reinforces the reality that civil unions are a form of second class citizenship, and marriage indeed is the only way to achieve true equality.
"Over the last nine years in Vermont and then in other states, we've seen the inadequacy of civil union, which both gives and withholds important protections," Wolfson said. "The legislature's action to push past civil union to equality in marriage itself today underscores that civil union is no substitute for the freedom to marry, and there is enough marriage to share."
Freedom to Marry salutes the leadership of Vermont Freedom to Marry, who worked intensely in the legislature over the last few years, and brought together a gay and non-gay coalition to build support for marriage equality in Vermont.
Momentum for the freedom to marry continues across the nation. New Hampshire's House of Representatives passed a marriage bill in March, which now awaits a vote in the Senate. Marriage bills are pending in the New Jersey and New York legislatures, and the governors of both states have pledged to sign the bills once they reach their desks. Maine's legislature will hold hearings this month on a marriage bill, and the California Supreme Court is weighing a challenge to the discriminatory Proposition 8, brought by a broad array of civil rights and other groups.

With your help, the momentum for the freedom to marry is continuing across the nation.
--Freedom to Marry Staff"

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