Updated 9:04 p.m.
BURLINGTON, Vt. (BP)–Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean Saturday publicly backed a Vermont bill that would legalize “gay marriage” and urged fellow Democrats in the state to support it.
As governor of the state in 2000, Dean signed a landmark civil unions bill that granted homosexual couples all the legal benefits of marriage, minus the name. But in speaking at a Vermont Democratic Party reception Saturday, Dean made clear he supports efforts in the state legislature to legalize “marriage” for homosexual couples. He was in Vermont to receive an award from the state party.
“Vote your conscience, not your district,” he urged legislators, according to the Burlington Free Press. “Stand up for doing the right thing; for being a human being. Put human rights above politics — because if you don’t, you’ll regret it for the rest of your political career.”
In 2006 Dean got in hot water for mistakenly saying that the 2004 Democratic Platform defined marriage in the traditional sense. But in the two-plus years since that gaffe — and following criticism from homosexual groups — Dean quietly came out for “gay marriage.” Under his leadership the DNC gave $25,000 last year to fight California’s Proposition 8.
Dean is but the latest prominent Democrat prominent Democrat publicly to back “gay marriage.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi supports such relationships, as do seven U.S. Senate Democrats.
The Vermont bill, S. 115, passed the Vermont state Senate by a veto-proof majority and now faces a vote in the state House, where it is expected to pass there, too, this week. With Republican Gov. Jim Douglas pledging to veto it, all eyes are watching to see what the vote margin in the House will be. Both chambers are controlled by Democrats.
Connecticut and Massachusetts recognize “gay marriage,” although both changes in state law came via court-order.
Dean served as DNC chairman until Tim Kaine was elected to fill the role in January.
Compiled by Michael Foust, assistant editor of Baptist Press.