Overflow crowds jam Vermont State Capitol for marriage hearing
March 19, 2009
Last night, the Vermont Capitol was packed as 1,000 residents attended legislative hearings on a marriage equality bill. In 2000, Vermont was the first state in the country to provide a broad set of rights and responsibilities to committed gay and lesbian couples with civil unions. This year, legislative leaders Peter Shumlin and Shap Smith have agreed that the time is right to move to full marriage equality in the Green Mountain State. We received this update about last night’s hearing from HRC Partner Jim Woodardof Underhill, who made the hour-long trip to the state capital Montpelier:
I had been planning to attend this hearing since I first heard about it several weeks ago, as I take very seriously my responsibility as a gay man to stand up for the rights of my community.
When I woke up on Wednesday morning, I felt cranky. I realized by mid-day that I was dreading the hearing, because after weeks of hearing the opposition slander my community, our allies, my friends, and – well, ME – I was feeling fatigued by their lies despite the overwhelmingly diverse and continuously growing support for marriage equality throughout Vermont communities.
Arriving at the Capitol, I was greeted by dozens of "Take Back Vermont" signs lining the way to the entry doors. I thought the signs a sorrowful and disgraceful juxtaposition to our state motto, “Freedom and Unity.” But surprisingly, I felt grateful for these signs, because instead making me feel shame or fear, I felt energized and full of joy. Suddenly, I couldn't wait for my chance to testify, and I signed up, #74 on the pro side.
As the testimony began, and I listened to the men, women, children, partners, friends, family, clergy, and community members who make up the enormous community of unified support for marriage equality, I sat humbled by their steady, consistent, and respectful expressions of commitment, family, unity, togetherness, respect, and LOVE.
HRC has been working closely with legislative leaders and the Vermont Freedom to Marry Task Force and encouraged HRC members and supporters in Vermont to attend yesterday’s hearing. Beth Robinson, Chair of Vermont Freedom to Marry, weighed in today with this account:
Wow! Over 1,000 people crowded into the Vermont Statehouse-- at least two-thirds of them sporting bright yellow "From legal rights to equal rights" buttons in support of the freedom to marry. The House Chamber filled up early for last night's joint House-Senate public hearing on the freedom to marry, and hundreds of Vermonters filled overflow rooms through the nearly three-hour gathering. Wholly apart from the merits of the issue, it was a quintessential Vermont moment. In the cafeteria, an overflow crowd of over 100 Vermonters sat quietly around tables-- often shared between supporters and opponents-- and listened intently. You could have heard a pin drop. The process was civil and respectful, even if the words spoken were not. One by one supporters of the freedom to marry told their own stories. Gay and lesbian Vermonters talked about the reality of our lives, children of same-sex parents described the utter normalcy of their family life, clergy testified about God's love for all people and families, and our parents, coworkers and friends stood by us. Opponents of the freedom to marry talked about perceived harms to our children, their interpretations of God's will, and the dangers to our society posed by committed same-sex couples who want to marry. If you want to pop some popcorn and settle in, you can watch the whole thing on our site: www.vtfreetomarry.org. Last night's hearing was a critical step in our march to full equality here in Vermont. Testimony in support of the freedom to marry was compelling, and the sheer number of our supporters compared to opponents sent a strong message. The Senate Judiciary Committee could vote on the bill as early as tomorrow, and the full Senate next week. Stay tuned!
**UPDATE** March 20: The Vermont Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously voted today to approve the marriage bill! Today's vote moves Vermont one step closer to joining Massachusetts and Connecticut as the only states in the country to offer marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples. The full senate is expected to hold debate on the bill next week.
March 20, 2013
Issues: Federal Advocacy
May 17, 2013
May 18, 2013