MONTPELIER, Vt. — Vermont’s Democratic-controlled legislature handed the “gay marriage” movement a landmark victory earlier today, overriding a veto and making the state the first in the nation to legalize “gay marriage” without a court order.
Requiring a two-thirds vote in each chamber to override Republican Gov. Jim Douglas’ veto, the bill passed the Senate with ease, 23-5, and then squeaked by in the House by the slimmest of margins, 100-49. It needed a minimum of 100 votes in the House to reach a two-thirds majority.
The bill will go into effect Sept. 1, making Vermont the fourth state to legalize “gay marriage,” following Massachusetts, Connecticut and Iowa. But unlike those three states, Vermont will begin recognizing “gay marriage” voluntarily.
Passage of the bill also means the nation has seen the number of states that recognize “gay marriage” — or soon will do so — double in the past week. Iowa’s highest court handed down its ruling just four days ago.
Douglas vetoed the bill Monday evening, setting up a quick-paced attempt at an override.
Anticipating just this scenario, the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina recently joined the NC4Marriage coalition to support a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman. Legislation allowing North Carolina to vote on such an amendment is buried in committee, with little hope of resurrection.
House Speaker Shap Smith, a Democrat and a strong backer of the bill, seemed to be fighting back tears upon announcing the vote total.
During floor debate in the House, opponents urged representatives to oppose the bill, saying it would bring negative social change to the state. Republican Rep. Donald Turner said the bill would result in “radically redefining our most basic social institution.”
“Marriage is the way that we as a culture — like virtually every other culture known to man — link children with their mother and father who made them,” Turner, who voted against the bill, said. “Whatever rights and benefits we decide to extend same-sex couples, this biological reality of marriage should not be lightly erased.”
A January Gallup Poll found that Vermont was the least religious state in the nation, with only 42 percent of residents answering “yes” when asked, “Is religion an important part of your daily life?” But Terry Dorsett, director of the Green Mountain Baptist Association — an association of Southern Baptist churches — told Baptist Press that evangelicalism is “small, but growing rapidly” in the state. In the past eight years he has seen the number of churches in his association more than double, going from 17 to 37. Dorsett had contacted members of the legislature, asking them to vote against the bill.
“There are times when those of us who are leaders in the evangelical Christian community become discouraged with the smallness of our numbers and the way that the mainstream liberal media marginalizes our efforts,” he said. “But then we are reminded that the battle is not fought in the courtrooms or in the state House, but in the hearts of men and women who are in need of Jesus. I have personally witnessed the spiritual transformation of several homosexuals who are now living free from that emotional addiction. They were drawn to one of our Southern Baptist churches because the people in that church showed concern for them.”
Vermont passed the bill nine years after it became the first state to legalize same-sex civil unions. That, though, came after a court-order.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press.)