Friday, April 03, 2009

Inch By Inch....It's A Struggle

Last night the Vermont House of Representatives voted 95-52 to allow same-sex couples the equal right of marriage in Vermont. The Senate also recently passed the bill. Now, however, it heads to the governor, who has threatened to veto it, because he is against same-sex marriage, which is to say, he favors discrimination of American citizens and is a believer of "separate but equal." Or maybe he's trying to appeal to that good old Republican right-wing conservative base. Or maybe he's simply a moron.

At any rate, the vote suggests that the House may have a difficult time of overriding Douglas' almost certain veto, but there is still hope.

The vote came after four hours of impassioned debate, from both supporters and opponents. Democratic Representative Bill Lippert, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, spoke about gays and lesbians in his community--carpenters and nurses and maple sugarers--and of his own relationship with his male partner. Lippert declared that the civil unions law he helped craft nine years ago could not provide complete equality.

"That's who we're talking about here today. These couples are living everyday lives of ordinary and extraordinary significance. People know what it means when you say you're married." Bill Lippert.

What it means is equality for all Americans, plain and simple.

"There's only one thing truly equal to marriage, and that's marriage. Now is the time to give civil unions a respectful burial." Democratic Representative Johanna Donovan.

As I've said before, civil unions are "less than" marriage, and that is unAmerican.

"I didn't choose to be gay. God made me gay. I begged him not to make it so. I stand because nobody should be ashamed of how God made them." Democratic Representative Steve Howard.

No one should ever feel shame for who they are, and we've let this go on far too long.

"Why do we have to be off to the side? Why do we have to say you are different? Why can't we just say congratulations?" Democratic Representative Jason Lorber, describing the newspaper notice about his union with his partner under the heading "civil union."

Keeping the announcement off to the side is another way of saying it's not the same thing; marriages announcements go here, civil union announcements can go over there.

Republican Representative Kurt Wright was undecided going into the debate, but, quoting a letter from former Senator Peter Brownell, who lost his seat over civil unions but didn't regret his support, Wright said he would support the bill.

Now, look at that! A Republican willing to do the right thing, the non-Republican thing! Bravo Kurt Wright! Bravo!

Other legislators spoke about why they could not support the bill.

"It's not easy to speak against this bill. Marriage in my understanding has for the ages been one man and one woman. Now we take it upon ourselves to change that definition." Republican Representative Thomas Koch.

Let's get it straight, Mr. Koch. Marriage once was one man and many women, then it was one man and one woman of the same faith, then one man and one woman of the same race. Marriage is in a constant state of flux. It has not remained unchanged since the dawn of time, and no matter how many times you say it, it doesn't make it true.

Democratic Representative Albert "Sonny" Audette apologized for voting no. As a Catholic, he said, he could not vote to change marriage.

Hey Sonny? Try voting the law and not the church. That's what you were elected to do. Remember that whole separation of church and state thing? Yeah, try that one on for size. It's law, not religion.

Republican Representative Anne Donahue succeeded in amending the bill to clarify the distinction between civil and religious marriage. She, and four other Republicans--Kurt Wright, Rick Hube, Patti Komline and Heidi Scheuermann--who voted for the bill. Eleven Democrats voted against the measure.

More Republicans doing what's right--conservative base be damned! And of course, there are some unenlightened Democrats as well; I only wish I had found their names.

And though it remained unclear whether supporters of the bill could muster the 100 votes needed to override a veto that Governor Douglas has said is coming, some Democrats who voted against the bill have said they would change course and vote for an override. It would have been nice if they'd voted for equality in the first place.

The House chamber was filled with supporters and opponents, some of whom had packed lunches and spent the day waiting through several hours of debate on the 2010 state budget.

Nina Beck of South Burlington was one of them. She and partner Stacy Jolles were plaintiffs in the court case that brought about civil unions nine years ago. Beck attended with 9-year-old son Seth, who was a baby during that debate. "I'm very excited," she said. "Civil unions we said was a very good step in the right direction. We've kept working for marriage."

After the vote, Beck said, "It's fabulous," but added, "we have a way to go."

Molly Jesse of Essex came to the Statehouse with friends to show her opposition to the bill. "It takes away from the sanctity of the marriage vow," she said. "I can't sit around and watch our marriage fall into this abyss."

Hi Molly, Bob here. Uh, gay marriage will have no effect on your marriage or the sanctity of marriage. In fact, it might actually strengthen marriage when it becomes evident that marriage is an option for all Americans, regardless of sexual orientation. So, please, seriously, stop using the sanctity of marriage crap, or the ruination of traditional marriage bull. And about that abyss? Pffffft.


frogponder said...

Good point about the fluidity of marriage. It also used to be arranged and bartered. Women were traded and bought and sold into marriage. And it still happens in some parts of the world.

Mark in DE said...

Excellent post!