"Passing this bill is the right thing to do at this time," said Sen. Peter Shumlin, D-Vt. President Pro Tem.
Shumlin and Rep. Shap Smith, D-Vt. House Speaker, plan to push a marriage equality bill quickly through both chambers.
The bill would grant same-sex couples the right to marry in Vermont.
"We know that this issue could either be one that unifies or one that divides us and we want to ensure it's one that unifies us," Shumlin said.
Lawmakers know well how this could be a divisive issue.
When civil unions were legalized back in 2000 it sparked protests and the Take Back Vermont movement.
Opponents argued traditional marriage was at stake. Voters retaliated. And several lawmakers lost their seats that election year.
"The world has changed a lot since 2000," said Beth Robinson, an advocate of gay marriage.
Gay marriage advocates say civil unions were so controversial because Vermont was the first in the nation to legalize them.
But they've since paved the way for gay marriage in other states.
"Civil unions were a breakthrough at the time. But we never thought that civil unions created full equal rights for gay and lesbian Vermonters," Robinson said. "It's hard for me to imagine anyone would think that recognizing and respecting their lifetime partnership takes anything away from anybody else."
Robinson says full marriage rights offer same-sex couples more legal protections and the pride of being able to say you're married.
"We are changing the definition of marriage," said Craig Bensen, who opposes gay marriage.
Gay marriage opponents say marriage should remain between a man and a woman-- anything else threatens the institution of marriage.
"It is not a positive social good to create a permanent class of motherless and fatherless children," Bensen said.
Gov. Jim Douglas, R-Vermont, says this is not the time. He says it's too divisive of an issue when lawmakers should be working on the economic crisis.
"Jim Douglas is no fool," political analyst Garrison Nelson said.
But Nelson says the timing makes sense, it will pass this session, and the governor will ultimately let it.
"The anticipated horrors of civil unions never came to pass so consequently this is the logical next step," Nelson said. "Douglas won't sign the bill. He won't veto the bill. He'll let it become law without his signature."
The governor himself has not said whether he would sign a same-sex marriage bill. Lawmakers want this done quickly. They will take up gay marriage in a week-and-a-half and they plan to hold a public hearing at the Statehouse. But the discussion might not matter. Lawmakers say the opposition had an opportunity to weigh in during statewide public meetings held in the fall of 2007. Opponents say they boycotted the meetings because it was a quote "dog and pony show," and point out that the Freedom to Marry Task Force begins airing TV ads tonight-- the same day the press conference was held.
Sunday, December 8 2013 2:00 PM EST2013-12-08 19:00:23 GMT
A Connecticut man is charged with DUI after police say he admitted to overdosing on prescribed Ritalin when he was pulled over. The incident happened on Route 105 in Berkshire late Friday afternoon. AuthoritiesMore >>
A Connecticut man is charged with DUI after police say he admitted to overdosing on prescribed Ritalin when he was pulled over.More >>
Sunday, December 8 2013 1:42 PM EST2013-12-08 18:42:20 GMT
Police in New Hampshire are investigating an accident on Interstate 89 that claimed two lives. It happened on the northbound lane between Exit#18 and Exit#19 in Lebanon. The initial investigation revealedMore >>
It happened on the northbound lane between Exit#18 and Exit#19 in Lebanon, N.H. Saturday.More >>
Sunday, December 8 2013 1:30 PM EST2013-12-08 18:30:52 GMT
Police say a couple tried to use a baby to smuggle drugs into jail. Police say the baby arrived the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility, with 27-year-old David Willette of Bennington, for a scheduledMore >>
Police say a couple tried to use a baby to smuggle drugs into jail.More >>
Sunday, December 8 2013 1:25 PM EST2013-12-08 18:25:45 GMT
A 28-year-old Coventry man is dead after a crash Saturday night in Irasburg. Police say at about 8:40 p.m. Gerald Begin rolled his car on Route 5 and was thrown out of the vehicle. He was taken toMore >>
A 28-year-old Coventry man is dead after a crash Saturday night in Irasburg.More >>
Sunday, December 8 2013 1:21 PM EST2013-12-08 18:21:13 GMT
Talks next week in New York will try to determine how new state land in the central Adirondacks can be used. The Adirondack Park Agency is considering recommendations for the land in the towns of IndianMore >>
Talks next week in New York will try to determine how new state land in the central Adirondacks can be used.More >>
Sunday, December 8 2013 1:18 PM EST2013-12-08 18:18:31 GMT
Competition could be fierce for new casino licenses in upstate New York. The licenses will be awarded next year after voters passed an amendment allowing Vegas-style casinos outside Indian land. FourMore >>
Competition could be fierce for new casino licenses in upstate New York.More >>
Sunday, December 8 2013 1:13 PM EST2013-12-08 18:13:03 GMT
If you're lucky, you may have seen a snowy owl in Vermont. Researchers say the birds are traveling even farther south than usual -- some even as far south as North Carolina. We spotted one Friday afternoonMore >>
Researchers say snowy owls are traveling even farther south than usual, and that means more sightings here in Vermont.More >>
Sunday, December 8 2013 1:12 PM EST2013-12-08 18:12:07 GMT
The sun is completing a "solar flip," and that means many people could have the best chance in a decade of seeing the aurora borealis, or Northern Lights. NASA says every 11 years the sun's polar magneticMore >>
We check in on some of the week's big science stories, including why the Northern Lights may be more visible soon.More >>