MONTPELIER, Vt. (BP)–Vermont’s House passed a bill Thursday night that would legalize “gay marriage,” although it fell just short of a veto-proof majority, meaning the political drama is far from over.
The bill passed on second reading by a vote of 95-52, which is five votes shy of the veto-proof number of 100 if all members are present. Republican Gov. Jim Douglas has promised a veto.
The bill -– which had minor changes made to it — will face a third reading Friday and then will go back to the Senate, which already passed it by a veto-proof margin. Democrats control both chambers.
If the bill becomes law, Vermont would become the first state to legalize “gay marriage” without a court order.
It’s still possible supporters will get the votes to override a Douglas veto. At least two Democrats told the Burlington Free Press they would switch to a “yes” vote on an override simply because they thought Douglas had interfered in the legislative process with his veto pledge.
During floor debate, supporters said it was a matter of civil rights and that Vermont should take the next step by granting the title “marriage” to homosexual couples. The state already recognizes civil unions, which grant same-sex couples all the legal benefits of marriage minus the name.
Opponents argued that religious freedom was at stake. Rep. Duncan Kilmartin, a Republican, told the story of a Massachusetts couple, Robb and Robin Wirthlin, who complained to their school when their second-grade son and his classmates were read a book about a prince “marrying” a prince.” The school didn’t budge, so the Wirthlins sued the school in federal court but lost. Massachusetts recognizes “gay marriage.”
“I treasure the Vermont Constitution, which protects not merely my freedom of thought … but protects my practice of those thoughts as long as they don’t harm someone else,” Kilmartin said. “If I teach my children that marriage is between a man and a woman and not between two people of the same sex, then both my children and I should be fully protected — not merely in [our] belief, but in the public expression [of it].”
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press.