Vermont Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vermont Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage

Montpelier, Vermont - April 7, 2009

A historic day in Vermont-- lawmakers voted to override Governor Douglas' veto, making same-sex marriage legal.

It was a tense morning for supporters and opponents because the vote to override was close. When Democratic leaders walked into the Statehouse Tuesday they thought they had enough votes, but they were not completely sure until the final tally was read.

"This is our moment; this is our chance," said Sen. Peter Shumlin, D-Vt. President Pro Tem.

The Vermont Senate had the first move, easily overriding Governor Douglas's veto 23-5.

Then the civil marriage bill allowing same-sex couples to marry went to the House where the outcome was less certain.

Rep. Shap Smith, D-Vt. House Speaker, read the results, "Those voting yes 100. Those voting no 49. 100 needed to pass, you have voted to override the veto. The House will come to order."

An emotional outburst that continued outside after the vote.

"I'm relieved, I'm overwhelmed. We won -- 100 to 49," said Susan Murray, of the Freedom to Marry Task Force.

"Thank you Vermont. Thank you Vermont legislature. Thank You," said Jean Szilva of Winooski.

Some lawmakers have been waiting nine years for a marriage vote after the state passed civil unions.

"I am so happy to have had the opportunity to change your lives, change all of your lives, thank you," said Sen. John Campbell, D-Windsor County, who introduced the bill.

"There are people who took political risks today because it was the right thing to do and they have my gratitude forever," said Rep. Bill Lippert, D-Hinesburg, who is openly gay.

Six Republicans voted to override Republican Governor Jim Douglas. The governor did not lobby anyone since he sees gay marriage as a personal vote.

"This is not a time for congratulations; it's a time for moving on. I really believe that Vermonters ought to focus on the future-- accept the outcome of this vote today-- I certainly do," Douglas said.

House Speaker Shap Smith voted for the bill and also worked hard to win over a few final votes.

"It was an issue that affected friends and colleagues so it was personal to me," Smith said.

Some opponents have vowed revenge on lawmakers. Others were just disappointed and say they were out-spent.

"Two days after town meeting-- wrap it up in two weeks-- bought and paid for before anyone knows who bought and paid for it," said Craig Bensen of Take it to the People.

"This is the hardest thing I've ever had to do in my life," said Rep. Jeff Young, D-St. Albans City.

Young was one of three Democrats who changed their vote from against the bill to supporting the override. Young says as a freshman legislator he felt pressure to support the bill so he could work on his priorities.

"You are going to have to live with these guys the rest of the year and if you want things to happen you have to be part of the game, part of the caucus," Young said.

Representative Young might feel vulnerable now, but supporters say they'll make sure lawmakers keep their seats.

"And we're not done until every person who stood up and voted for this bill is reelected in November in 2010!" said Beth Robinson of the Freedom to Marry Task Force.

The law will take effect September 1.

Vermont is now the fourth state to permit same-sex marriage, but the first to do so with a legislature's approval instead of a court order.

Kristin Carlson - WCAX News

Related Stories:

Vermonters React to Override

Governor Vetoes Same-Sex Marriage Bill

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