This Day in History: Vermont Passes Marriage Equality Legislation
April 7, 2013 by Carolyn Simon, Deputy Director of Digital Media
Four years ago today, Vermont became the first state to embrace marriage equality via the legislative process - joining Massachusetts, Connecticut and Iowa in allowing same-sex couples to marry.
The state House and Senate had passed marriage equality legislation, only to have it vetoed by then-Gov. Jim Douglas, a Republican. In order to override the governor’s veto, both chambers would have to vote again - and two-thirds of legislators who were present in each chamber would have to vote in favor of the legislation.
It passed by a vote of 23-5 in the Senate, a wide margin, but all eyes were on the House, where the vote was very much in doubt. But when the votes were tallied, the legislation was passed by a 100-49 margin. Legislators overrode the governor’s veto, and same-sex marriage would become state law in just a few short months. Couples would begin marrying in September 2009.
HRC mobilized its members in Vermont to support the legislation. National Field Director Marty Rouse, a former Vermont resident, was on the ground working with legislators and activists to build support for the override votes.
Just days after HRC staffers headed to the rooftop of the organization’s D.C. headquarters to raise the Iowa flag in celebration of the state’s marriage equality victory, they returned to the roof to raise the Vermont flag. This tradition has been kept up for each state that has embraced marriage equality.
It was not the first time that Vermont made history in extending equal rights to same-sex couples. In 2000, the term civil unions was created in a Vermont legislative committee room by Vermont House members seeking a way to give gay and lesbian couples equal marriage rights.
Happy anniversary, Vermont!
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