MONTPELIER, Vt. (BP)–Vermont’s governor on April 26 signed into law landmark legislation granting the full benefits of marriage to homosexual and lesbian couples in the state, prompting warnings from opponents that it could spawn similar legislation in other states.
Gov. Howard Dean signed the bill into law during a closed-door meeting with supporters following a 79-68 vote by the Vermont House on April 25 and a 19-11 Senate vote April 19.
“This is a statement that Vermont values people for who they are, not what they are,” Dean said in a prepared speech following the signing. “This bill enriches not just the very small percentage of gay and lesbian Vermonters who take advantage of this partnership and get the rights that the court has determined that they are due. I believe this bill enriches all of us, as we look with new eyes at a group of people who have been outcasts for many, many generations.” Vermont’s Supreme Court in December ruled that state law discriminated against homosexual couples and that a legislative remedy was needed.
Family groups believe Vermont’s “civil unions” law will have a negative impact on the state and may be used to undermine marriage laws across the country.
“We hope at least to establish a residency requirement and broaden the bill so that it’s not sex-based,” Craig Bensen, vice president of Take It to the People, told CNSNews.com after a closed-door meeting with the bill’s opponents.
Take It to the People is one of the largest grassroots groups opposed to civil unions, with a membership of approximately 15,000.
Under the U.S. Constitution’s full faith and credit clause, same-sex couples from out-of-state may use civil union certificates obtained in Vermont after July 1, when the bill goes into effect, to challenge marriage laws passed in other states.
Robert Knight, of the Family Research Council, told the Rutland (Vt.) Herald, the new law will not help homosexuals.
“It creates the fiction that what they are doing is normal and healthy. It sends a message to young people that marriage-based families are irrelevant. It gives people a powerful reason to support other homosexual activist ideas — such as teaching children that homosexuality is the equivalent of marital love,” Knight said.
“It also creates problems for the rest of the nation as gay couples will get their certificates and fan out to the other states and demand that these benefits be given to them where they live,” Knight added.
Vincent McCarthy, a lawyer for the American Center for Law and Justice, agreed. “I think there is a concern, justifiably so, that people in Vermont might try to take this decision to another state, seeking somehow to get another state to recognize the rights given in Vermont,” McCarthy said.