Vermont Legislature Is First In The Nation To Legalize Gay Marriage Without Lawsuit


Thanks to Dlisted

Today is one of the most significant days ever in the history of gay rights.  This morning the Vermont legislature voted to overturn Governor Jim Douglas’s veto of the gay marriage bill they passed last week.  In doing so, Vermont became the first state ever to legalize gay marriage by legislative act without a court order.  Massachusetts, Iowa, Connecticut, and California were all the result of court orders, as was the civil union law of New Jersey. 

This is significant because until today, the gay rights movement, to the extent that there is a movement, couldn’t point to any statewide political victories on marriage.  Currently 29 states have constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage, while another 17 have laws that have the same effect.  Until recent court victories, more than 46 states had such laws in effect.  And most of those were passed in the last 10 years.  Proposition 8 only reinforced what should have been obvious.  This movement became too reliant on lawyers and too reliant on lobbyists.  The major organizations touted their accomplishments and lulled people into complacency to the point that there was barely a a grass roots movement to mobilize when the need arose.

Fortunately, Proposition 8 made people angry enough to take action to engage political leaders directly to demand the change we deserve.  The Vermont House of Representatives, which only produced 95 votes for marriage last Friday, heard your voices.  The Democrats pressured their colleagues to stand together, and with the assistance of two Republicans, delivered 100 votes to overturn the veto.

So savor this victory.  Because these are the kind of victories we need if we are going to win true equality.  We can’t rely on lawyers.  In every state that has a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage,  it’s going to take you, and your anger, and your willingness to pick up a phone, blog about an action, forward a video, change your Facebook status, Twitter your network, email a message, recruit your friends, organize a meetings, write a check, support a primary challenger, make your voices heard, hold leaders accountable, and get out the vote that is going to win marriage equality state by state. 

And it’s going to take that same willingness to stay angry and to ask your friends to get angry that we are going to need if we are going to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and pass comprehensive civil rights legislation.

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3 Responses to “Vermont Legislature Is First In The Nation To Legalize Gay Marriage Without Lawsuit”

  1. jeffbhall Says:

    For those of you on Twitter, please update your status as follows:

    Please RT: Vermont shows that the gay movement became too reliant on lawyers and too reliant on lobbyists:

  2. David Hobbie Says:

    I do not agree that Vermont showed that the same-sex marriage movement is too reliant on lawyers.

    To the contrary, the advances there were only possible because a court case brought by GLAD and its Vermont lawyer allies forced Vermont to grant civil unions with the full panoply of civil marriage rights, except for the name of marriage.

    Only later, after Vermonters could see that they had nothing to fear from civil equality for their gay and lesbian, could marriage have been passed.

    • thepowerny Says:

      The point is not that lawyers haven’t played an important role. They’ve played a very important role and they’ve been effective. The larger point is that lawyers don’t win elections and judges don’t pass legislation. As a movement, we are too reliant on lawyers to do all that work. There has been no grass roots movement. We’re fortunate that Mass Equality did such a good job of fighting to prevent an anti-marriage amendment after the Supreme Judicial Court ruling there. We were not as fortunate in California with Proposition 8, where excellent lawyering in the Supreme Court could not stop the passage of a constitutional amendment.

      The example of New York is particularly illustrative. Lawyers fought all the way to the Court of Appeals to argue for marriage. They lost. Unfortunately, until recently, there has been no grass roots movement in New York to pick up the slack. Even though New York has the largest LGBT population in the country, a Democratic governor, Assembly, and Senate, we haven’t been able to pass marriage legislation.

      So thank goodness for lawyers. But we have to stop putting all our eggs in one basket. We have to stand up as individuals and come together in common cause to fight for equality now.

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