Vermont has been in the news a lot lately. Earlier last month, our Senate voted 26-4 in favor of a bill that would legalize ‘gay marriage’ in Vermont, making it the third state after Connecticut and Massachusetts to do so. Back in 2000, the state made a splash with the introduction of Civil Unions, which granted many aspects of marriage to same-sex couples, although not in name.
Today, the State Representatives voted in favor of the bill 95-52, despite a threat from Governor Jim Douglas that any such bill would be vetoed as soon as it reaches his desk. His statement has caused a divide in public opinion towards the bill and the governor’s actions. It’s certainly a contentious issue, and while I can admire the desire to advocate patience and a broad examination of the issue, that’s not really what’s happening in the state – Douglas has taken it upon himself to essentially listen to his own beliefs and convictions, rather than what the people of Vermont seem to be trending towards, and has hidden behind an excuse that he would much rather have the budget passed first.
I can admire the personal conviction, I really do. I can understand why people don’t wish to support the bill, and I actually agree with Douglas when it comes to getting the state’s finances squared away first. The state is working to fullfill a $200 million shortfall, and is facing a number of postitions that are going to be cut, which is extremely unpopular at this stage. But, this decision on Douglas’s part will likely hurt him in the long run, especially as he’ll likely be running for re-election in 2010. Marriage that is more inclusive is becoming a more popular within the state.
What annoys me more is that these arguments dredge up much unpleasentness between both sides, and the arguments of the religious right in paticular are the arguments that are the most distressing. Their arguments are ones of fear, mistrust and ignorant thinking that represents the worst of our society, and while I’m not sure that marriage is a federal issue, it is most certainly a state one, and that it shouldn’t be prohibited based on one’s gender, no matter what religious texts are followed by the legislators. Religion can certainly inform the opinions of politicians, but it should not dictate policy.
Marriage is a civil issue, and as we have seen in our history, seperate but equal laws are not. Civil Unions have existed for nine years, and in that time, there have been problems that have cropped up, especially in other states. Allowing same-sex couples to marry would eliminate this problem, and it should be done.