Vermont governor poised to sign homosexual 'civil unions' bill
MONTPELIER, Vt. (BP)--Vermont lawmakers gave their approval April 25 to a bill that would make the state the first in the nation to legally recognize homosexual marriage-like "civil unions."
Gov. Howard Dean has promised to sign the bill into law and may do so by the end of the week. The first homosexual unions could take place after July 1.
The final House vote on accepting Senate amendments to the bill was 79-68.
"The granting of the equal protections of the law by providing the legal protections, benefits and responsibilities that flow from marriage will not diminish your humanity, your dignity, your freedom or independence," said House Judiciary Committee chairman Thomas Little.
The bill will create civil unions as a legal framework parallel to marriage.
Opponents made one last attempt to derail the bill before the final vote. A Republican representative proposed delaying the vote until Nov. 30, after the fall elections. That move was defeated 84-63.
A majority of Vermont's voters rejected the idea of homosexual unions during non-binding town hall meetings last March.
Opponents had a difficult time fighting supporters of the homosexual civil unions bill. Two of the state's television stations, WCAX and WPTZ, refused to air television ads by pro-family groups opposed to homosexual marriages. The two stations are the largest in the state.
Under the legislation, same-sex couples would be able to go to their town clerk to obtain a civil union license. The civil unions would then be certified by a justice of the peace, judge or member of the clergy.
Breakups would be handled like divorces through family courts, although they would be called dissolutions.
After the Hawaii Supreme Court raised the possibility of same-sex marriages in 1993, 30 states and the federal government passed laws denying recognition to same-sex marriages.