Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Gay Marriage Advancing in Vermont & Other New England States

The Boston Globefeatures this story today about the Vermont Senate voting 26-4 in favor of the bill allowing gay marriage in the state. The story also looks at bills coming along in New Hampshire, next week and in Maine, next month.

"One of the advantages of New England is that we share geography and media markets, so folks in other states have seen marriage in Massachusetts for five years and can see the good," said Lee Swislow, executive director of the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, who has called for New England to be a "marriage equality zone." "I think the efforts build on each other. What happens in one state inspires folks in other states, and hopefully it will inspire the rest of the country."

Last year, Connecticut joined Massachusetts to become the second state in the country to allow same-sex marriage. Vermont, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and California permit civil unions, but advocates for gay marriage say it does not afford the same rights as marriage. A court decision last year briefly allowed same-sex marriage in California, but a voter initiative in November banned it.

Even the most vocal opponents of same-sex marriage concede that the tide may be turning in New England.

"There's no doubt that they're making progress in the legislatures," said Kris Mineau, president for the Massachusetts Family Institute in Woburn, which has long opposed same-sex marriage. "They have wisely targeted the New England states, because of their progressive stance on social issues. But we have not conceded defeat." (snip)

In New Hampshire, lawmakers will vote on whether to approve same-sex marriages on Thursday.

Jim Splaine, a member of the New Hampshire House and chief sponsor of its bill, said the vote will be close in a chamber with a majority of Democrats, most of whom he said support the bill.

"It's going to be tough, but we stand a good chance," Splaine said. "I think most people have realized that we need full equality, not just civil unions."

New Hampshire Governor John Lynch, a Democrat, also opposes same-sex marriage. But, like Vermont's governor, he is not saying whether he would veto such a bill.

"He thinks the civil unions that he signed into law prevents discrimination and provides the same legal protections to all New Hampshire families to the extent that it's possible under federal law," said Colin Manning, a spokesman for Lynch.

In Maine, Betsy Smith, executive director of Equality Maine, said her group has found nine cosponsors of a same-sex marriage bill in the state's 35-member Senate and 55 cosponsors in its 151-member House. Next month, the bill will have its first legislative hearing.

"We hope the bill will pass this year," she said.

Maine's Democratic Governor John Baldacci has not taken a position on the bill.

Joy Leach, a spokeswoman for Baldacci, said the governor "remains open-minded and will follow the debate . . .. He has opposed gay marriage in the past, favoring civil unions, but he has not made a final decision on this legislation."
The article, by David Abel, goes into more detail, and also discusses the dimmer chances of successfully bringing a bill in Rhode Island. Conveniently, the University of Pittsburgh law blog, Jurist offers a nice report with links to the text of the bill and many related reports here.

1 comment:

Betsy McKenzie said...

This bill has now passed through the House and is waiting for a decision by the Governor. We'll see.