If Passed, Law Would Be Closest Thing to Gay Marriages in U.S.
HRC Calls Vote 'Monumental Leap Forward' for Same-Sex Unions
Compiled By GayToday
The Vermont Senate voted 19-11 in favor of a "civil union" bill today that would give same-sex couples the same rights and benefits afforded married couples under state law. This historic legislation represents a monumental leap forward for the legal recognition of same-sex unions, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
"The Vermont legislature has shown real leadership in choosing to embrace gay and lesbian families and go further than any other state in offering fair and equal benefits to all of its citizens," said HRC Executive Director Elizabeth Birch. "While this bill is not perfect, it is a victory for families and the beginning of a new age where our relationships receive the legal recognition and respect they deserve."
In March, the Vermont House voted 76-69 in favor of a comprehensive civil union bill which Gov. Howard Dean (D) has indicated that he will sign into law. The bill allows for gay and lesbian Americans to take part in civil unions, just as heterosexual couples can marry.
Same-sex couples will be entitled to all 300 or more benefits available under state law to married couples - including medical decisions, estate inheritance, overseeing burials, transferring property and certain tax breaks. Town clerks would be authorized to give same-sex couples licenses, and clergy, justices of the peace or judges would make their unions official. Family divorce courts would handle the dissolution of civil unions.
There is evidence that public opinion towards same-sex marriage may be slowly changing, as people become more familiar with same-sex couples and the challenges they face. A September 16, 1999 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll reported that two-thirds of all Americans believe that gay and lesbian people will win the freedom to marry. Gay and lesbian Americans continue to be denied civil marriage in all 50 states.
The Human Rights Campaign is the largest national lesbian and gay political organization with members throughout the country. It effectively lobbies Congress, provides campaign support and educates the public to ensure that lesbian and gay Americans can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.