Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Marriage equality in Vermont

Last week the Vermont house and senate both approved legislation giving same-sex couples the same marriage rights as opposite-sex couples. Republican Governor Jim Douglas vetoed the legislation. His arguments for doing so varied. First, he claimed that bill had nothing to do with the economy and that the legislature had to focus on the economy. (It is never a good idea to have politicians focus on the economy.) He said that they were wasting time debating this issue. Of couse, his veto meant it was sent back to the legislature for even more debate and discussion.

In his veto message the governor then argued that the bill didn't actually give gays equal rights because the federal government didn't recognize same-sex couples. He neglected to mention that his party, at the behest of Bob Barr, passed the legislation doing precisely that. Of course, that doesn't mean that where the state is involved that legal equality can't exist.

Last week the Vermont house voted 94 to 52 in favor of the bill. The vote in the senate was well over 2/3rds making that vote veto proof. But the house vote was five votes short of the 2/3rds majority necessary to override a veto. So yesterday Governor Douglas vetoed the bill and today the house voted 100 to 49 to override the veto. The final senate vote was 23 to 5.

The one hilarious remark of the day comes from Craig Bensen, an anti-gay activist, who said: "The other side had a highly funded, extremely well-oiled machine with all the political leadership except the governor pushing to make this happen. The fact that it came down to this tight a vote is really astounding." Tight? It takes a 2 to 1 majority to override the veto.