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As the row over Section 28 continues to blaze in

Scotland,

American province is set to ignite a

liberal beacon to the world. Eamonn O'Neill

reports from Vermont, where gay marriages

mav soon have the full blessing of the law

Photogf aph: lina Fineberg/AP

Statcorthe

unl0n

A rally in

support of

same-sex

marriage in

New York

last month

THINK that \ve're in :r unique discussion

in this Strie. \\4rich hns never been hrd

natioDally and maJ. ne\€r ha\€ been

had global\i'

For a nan Nlro has come to embod,v

one ofthe most conrcntious debates in US

legal llistory sire).luired StaD Baker, a 53-

)€ar olcl ps\chotherapist tion] South

Burlington, \/erlnont, USA, is rema*abll'

selene. He is one of the $oup ofsix

honroseruals at dre cerltre ofthe decisiol

bJ, \/emront! Suprerne Court on

Decembel 20, 1999 to change its la\vs to

ensule doNestic partnerships" or sanlese)i

marria€cs'. :1rc legall)' recoe:nised. If

the ln\\,is passed to\vard the eDd ofdtis

Nontll, lesbians and ga)' men \\'ill eDjq'

the sanre beneiits ancl proteclion dlat

heterosexual marded couples do.

All Bakel \v.nts is to nr:ury l'lis

boyfiiend. When his irpplicatiorl to do so

\as declined. he decided to sue dre state-

It \\as this simple act that led to dte

landmafk decision to chrnge the la\v

while all around him an unlrob' roN is

buildiDg, Baker believes the situatioD is

straighdbrlard and uncontentious: Tlle

lvermont] Suprcme Court is sa),it1€r

p-.ople ofdre srne gender need to have

rlre sanle rights, privilqes .Dd

responsibilities as opposite gender

couples. Ard lheD they said to the

leEishtrire.

'You Figrre out which wa)':

either domestic partnership rvith full

riErhts, privileges and r€sponsibilities, or

marriage."'

This historic case is no\\, rcferred to as

Baker-\-Vemront. His co-plaiffiffs include

hvo lesbian couples: Nina Beck and Stacy

]olles. altd Lois Farnhan and Holly

Puterbaugh. All live in and arcuDd dle

Burlington, \rel mont area.

'lf),ou think about the history of

homosexuxlit,v." sa-vs Baker sitting in his

cos1, living-room on a bone numbingl)'

cold Febmar), da_y

"it \\as not long a8o

dlat it \\,as seen as an illness. And because

ir Nas seen as aD illness, people lvho rvere

homosexual or lesbian were Dot seen as

beirg capable of having families, being

parerrs or staying ir1 rclaLionships. IBut] if

\\,e\'e allo\\€d to gel married - and \e're

fi8htiuF for that civil right - dten rve re no

longer seen as ill, or second class or

somehorv iucapable of human

relationships."

Baker is fi'amed by an impressive

portmit ofhis lrandfather which hangs on

rlrc \\all behiDd hirn. pairrreduring his lJyear

tenure as prcsident ofthe Uni\ersit)'

of Nlassachusetts. Next lo the teapot on

dre table in ftont ofhim stands a smali >

5 March 2ooo .||ndayhelald 13


) \ood-f-ramed picture ofa snliiing Baker

ilnd his.?8-\ear-old pitroler ofsi\ arlcfalri

flears. Peter Harrigan. Professoa

Tlreatre at rearb, St lvlicluels College.

The poitrait of his g:randfather ma-\'

s\flbolise the Baker Famih,s respectable

past, but the suap ofHalrienn represents a

vital prrt ofBaker's, and, to a lesser e\tent.

the US,Ab future. The Suprenle Court

decision lnay chaDge the course olUS

histoqr but Baker denies there \\'as an)'

heroic inrpulse behind his decision to sue.

''l saw it as a stand. Something that I

\as being Ied to do, he says.

"Peter aDd I

\\,ere the right couple. in the ri€lht place. rt

the right time. In terDls ofm! impact on

our culture and our histoq'ofciYil rights

rnd h man righis I can t drink ofanothe:'

fting I ll do that Nill be so important.'

I- TERVONT is nor tlle firsr srite

\ / in rvhich anenrpts have beer)

\/ mlde to put ga. ln.rliaFe on

Y the stitute books. Betll

Robinson, a pa1, la\1er aDd activist. is one

of a team of lhtee la\\iaers \\4lo

represeDted lhe Bakel_\'\lernront case.

She has follo\\ed lhe ftoubled le€al histor]'

of Ca-v unions \\,ilh interest. There wxs a

series oflawsuits in the 1970s ihat \\'ere

dismissed veN quicklJl There $€rc tour

or fir,e same-sex couplq5 \,ho sought t)re

ght to marrl. btlt in 1993 the \\'orld

changed dramaticallv Nhen the Ha\\'aii

Supreme Court handed doNn a decision

sirying the la\\€ discriminating a€ninst

same-sex couples \\'ere discrinrinalorla'

In 1996 a case \\,as held in Ha\uii to

14 3undayherald 5 March 2000

decicle on tbis issue. The \erdict\\as rhat

discrilniration Nas lnlarvftll and same

seHnarriages shodd be allo\\€d. But

opposition activists appealed that decisioD

and ts'o and-alulflears later. after

intense political al]ld religious lobb-ving.

Ha\vaii passecl I constitutional

anrendmert. The anendment was p$ to

the people \\'ho\oted do\t the law that

would hr\€ pernitted sane se\

nralriaEFs. hr Aliska it \vas a sinlilar stol.!

- the la\\, said thNt same-se\ aniae€s

should be allowed until opposition

activists forced the matter and obtained a

corstitLrtional tmendmeDt.

Ho\\e\€r. tlre fact dut bv tlre mid{990s

h\,o starcs had nlmost. ifnot quite. made

s:Une-se\ m:rrriages a leenl rcalit-v \\'as

enouErh to send some politicians iDto a

tailspin. The rcason lbr the panic is

Article lV of the US CoDslitution \\hich

states tluc Full f'aith ;tnd credii shall be

ldYen in each Stale to public acts, records

and iudicial proceediDls ofevery other

St:lte. In other Nords, legal tradition

states tlut la\\'s passed iD oDe state are for

rhe most part. recoenised in all tlle olhers.

ln the \\ake oftlte nvo near_misses in

Ha\\'aii and Alaska. politicialls oPposed to

sa|l]e-sex DratriagE drew up n Defence of

Marrias€ Acl \4tich declared that states

did not need to rcco€Ilise the le€al rights

of qa\. couples \\4ro had been matried in

otliei states and nrore or less stated that

d1e US Federal GovernDelrt onl)'

recogrised opposite-se\ nurdages The

validit.v oi this law is highlt' debatable and

leElal e\perts saY that it.s ope to

Left to right: challenge. Nevertheless it \\'ils Pnssed by

Stacey Jolles, Nina Congress and duly si€ned into beiig b!'

Beck, Peter President Clintor iD 1996.

Harrigan, Stan

Baker, Lois Farnham IMULTANEOUSLY major US

and Holly

corporations such as IBVI, Eastnan

Puterbaugh watch Kodak, Disney and Microsoft, had

arguments at the alread), be!$D offering so-cailed

Vermont SuPreme

"do$estic partner plans to ga-v

Court on 20 emplo]€es. This meani the partners of Ea,v

December, 1999 emplo\€es \\,erc entitled to be incl ded in

health. peDsion and othet benefits which

(( ihe emplolers extended to dleil loved

Īn terms ones. The states ofNew York. vermont

and Massachusetts follo\\'ed suit for tbeil

of my

siate emplol,ees.

Son'le opponents of same-se\ marrinK

impact on legislation felt tlmt these arraDgements

Nere pe ecth, adequate for gay and

our culture, lesbian couples. wll,v Nere €Fy couples so

intenr upon chanFng the la\v? \ /as it not a

case of a special minoriB'

I can't

Foup imposing

its \\,ill on the majoiity? Beth Robinsorl

counrers that the industrial lnd state plans

think of

were opell to onl-v a se]ect felv r\'ho

bappened to work for certain emplq€rs.

another or reside in certain states. Moreo\,er. and

more importantl!,, the benet-its on offer to

thing I'll the lucb' ferv only represerted a handful

of rvhat heteroserual maffied couples

do that doing the same iobs in dle sanle stntes

\\€re autoDaticalh, entitled to.

will be so It \\as that realisation. along lvith her

le€al Nork Nith eay clients that led

important

Robinson to belie\€ the la\\' in Vernont

had io change. She had to charee hett)

fees to ga), clieDts to draft docunents

whicl'! gave then sonething vaguely >

Stan Baket


approximating the legal coverage eniq€d

by heterosexual married couples. This

perturbed her - rhere had to be a better

Nav Moreover. since no la$s existed lo

marr', gay couples, then obviousb' none

exisied to divotce them.

"We end up struggling using legal rules

dweloped for corporations that are

dissoh,ing, or business deals lhat have

goDe avry," s4,s Robinson. "You re either

struggling with lau's that don't make anY

sense or more often than not youre telling

clients,

'work it out, you don't really have

many rights, take \\,hat you can and call it

a day'."

Robinson recognised that gal and lesbian

clients were coming to her Norkshops only

to be shocked b' the realisation that they

had little or no protection as couples under

the law. samesex couples $,hod been

together for decades did not qualiry for

innumerable state benefits because the),

nere not legalll, married. Many resented

the hct that they might have to sho\\' legal

docunents when they visited their partners

h hospital follo$,ing an emergenc)r Some

gay couples, who rcgarded theh partner's

families as the inlaws, \\ere appalled to

leam that they u€re, in facl, the outlaNs.

The same rule applied after bereavement.

Control of a gay or lesbiAn partner's body

after death could be challenged by others

with $eater legal rights.

And other strange anomalies existed

Couples o$ned property logether. had joint

bank accounts. bought cars and. \\'hele

possible.

ill lvhat the-v hoped $€re legally bindiDg

Nills. In Vermont it lvas perfectly legal for a

15 !md{h.}ald 5 Merch 2000

fight for the ght to gp to the funeral? Or

any of those other hordes of things. we

would choose this? It's not something )'ou

choose - \ou fall in love."

Both expressed e4tal incredulity \\'hen

thev visited Robinsol's advice rvorkshop

for the first time. "We \ere iust floored!

It \,as like. this is discrimination herel"

Puterbaugh and Famham are also

cauglrt in the predicament of having an

adopted daughter, now in her fhst vear of

college. r,ho they are parents to, o\€r the

l€ars thq"ve fostered no less than 15

children. Being unable to be joint leEal

grardians for children they arc both,

sepamtely, parent ol strikes them as

incomprehensible. "One of the arguments

against our being married is that lhey

want to save mardage to Presen€ the

family but here we arc and $'ere not the

onlv lesbian couple in the state that have

kids.' says Puterbaugh. "There are man-v

families with either hvo motheN or t\lo

fathers that r,\ant this billding together to

help preserve the hmilll [)et] the exact

reason $€ want it is \1'hy they're sa-ving

we should[ t have it."

Vermonter s the common benefit,

prctection, ard security ofthe la$."

HE main argument that had

been used by lallers acting for

the state aeainsthe suil had

been that only 'traditional"

marriage could biologically

opposite-sex

produce children. "But," comments

Robinson, "\\'hat the state had a hard time

11,ith was explaining $,hy it is they then

allow so many heterosexual couples, who

don't intend to ha\€ childre! or can t do

it biologicalbr marry lbecause] that

suggests there! something more to

marriage than procreation."

Vermont! state Legislature held the

key: \\,ould it rerwite the rules and crcate

a "parallel domestic partnership system'

for ga), couples, or \\ould it simply open a

ne$, chapter in US marriage laws, passing

a bill \ hich included g4,s and lesbians in

existing maniagE arrangements?

The decision rested with the lI pe$on

House Judiciar!, Committee. Six were

married: one \.\as in the middle of an

a\pensive di\,orcei t$'o $€re living with

thei! hetercsexual partnerc: one \\as a

single mother of trvol and one \\as g4l

E1€n before lhe Supreme Court of

Vermont handed down irs December 20

ruling, opposition forces began emerging.

Audiences of US TV sho\\'s used to the

pantomime of Jerry Springer programmes

featuring alleg€d gay \\€ddings - complet€

N reaction to this and many similar

situations, Robinson and nvo

colleagues formed the Vermont

fteedom to Marry ?sk Folce in the

mid{990s. The.v travelled the state

lecturing to an),one who $'ould lislen. ln

the course of their workshops they met

the six individuals - three couples - who with ill-fitting $,hite-&esses on

named each other as beneficiaries would become the plainliffs in their case. moustached, boot-\,earing male couples

RobinsoD and her colleagues spent time lolling around studio-sets covered in

eMmining ihe Vermont constitution until

Ba,v or lesbian couple to foster and adopt a "common rvedding cake rvatched by srunned

benefits" clause \\as spotted. relati\€s and tearful ex-lovers - \ould not

children. Gay partners could adopt their It dealt q,ith equaliry Ifvermont provided recognise the $oundlevel. day-to-dav

lo\€rs biological child, thus becoming a benefits to some members of the

tone of the vermonters discussion,

legal parent. Yet - bizarrely - though both population it had to provide them to Vermonters ha\€ traditionall.v imbued

gay partnerc had a leEal parenting

everybody - including gay couples. That their civic responsibilities \\'ith

relationship to the adopied child. as ihe law meant $at if lhe courts decided that the considerable graviq: During the American

stood, neither parent could ha\€ a legal absence of same-sex maffiage legislation Revolution, Vermont - lhen called New

relationship to each other.

resulted in a minodtt' gtoup - such as

Holly Puterbaugh is a 53 lear-old g4,s and lesbians - Connecticut - was the first state to

not rcceiving their due abolish sla!er]' and declare the principle

Uni\€rsiry Professor ofMaths and Lois common benefits then the la\\'had to be

Farnham, a 55 year-old school nurse changed so that the,v could g€t '\narried" ofuni\€rsalmale sufftagE; in more recent

l€ars it s kepi up this tradition of tolemnt

supervisor who live logether on the shores and thus receive lhose benefits,

and pro$essi\€ politics b!. being ihe only

ofvermont's Lake Champlain. Their story In a piece of legal choreography srare in the Union to send an Independent

as a lesbian couple. u4ro cannot legill!' Robinson had her three couples approach Representative, Bernie Sanders, to

unite. embodies many ofthese issues. thef local Town Halls for ofticial mariage

They met and fell in lo\€ in the summer of licenses - tlrc!' \\ere courteor-rsly refused _

WashinBton DC,

But opposition to tl'te state's reforms

1972. Back lhen rural Vermoni was not then they immediately filed suit against the has been fierce, alld de!€r morc so than

exactly San ftancisco irl terrns of€E],

rishts: "You state citing the common benefits clause as during the last )ear Randall Terr-vs

didnt talk about a Iot ofstuff" their main bone of conlention. That was in reputalion is formidable. He is drc

says u,ide"eyed. white-haired Farnham Jubr 1997 A le8al battle thrcugh the lo\\€r conffoversial founder and leader ofthe

For decades the tr,r,o rvomen Norked courts followed. Robinson argued her case anti-abortion gxoup Opemtion Rescue,

quietly in Vermont, bought a home to the Supreme Court ofvermont in whose \\'ebsite shoNs graphic images of

together, shopped at the local storc, November, 1998. The historic decision \\as

volunteered in the community library and handed down last lear. It stated:

'we aborted foetuses including one ofa

hold decapitated head. In 1994 he took a black

school and attended their belo\€d local that the State is constitutionally requircd bus do\\,n to Litde Rock, Arkansas during

church. They reckon ferv of their frieods io exteld to same-sex couples the the Clinton-Paula Jones debacle complete

or neighbous knerv they were lesbians. common benefits and protections that \\,ith a banner lhat said .WAKE uP

"lt's almost like we had to have dual lives, flow from maffiage under Vermont lav AIVERICA! SHOULD CLINTON BE

you had to be careful who you said \\'hat whether rhis ultimately takes lhe form of IMPEACHEDI' Six tears later, he has sel

to," rcflecis Farnham sadly

Puterbaugh adds: "People inclusion rvithil marriage lavs

keep saying themselves, or a parallel 'domestic up shop in vermont with his o\\'n radio

station. One local politician noted lhat

that this is a chosen lifesMe, that we partnerchip s,\,stem or some equi\alent Terry Nas being "\€ry threatening" \\'ith

choose to be lesbians. Do you really think I statuiory alternative, rests with lhe his anti-gay line and that his hate mail

uould choose a lifestyle where we can t Legislature. \\4ntel,er system is chosen, campaign $as not going do\1'n well either

"He

visit each other in the hospital or where. if ho\\,e\,er, must conform with the

is hurting his own cause."

Lois! sister \,\€re io die, I might have to constitutional imperative to afford all During thJearl-v dars of the

clockwise from

righl Peter

Harrigan and Stan

Baker touch hands

during the Vermont

hearlngs; a rally in

favour of same-sex

marnage; a

demonstEtor from

the Westboro

Baptist Church

outside the

Statehouse in

Montpelier; Holly

Puterbaugh, front.

and Lois Farnham

adclress a news

conference


I

''{.&:

{";J 't

- ol>+T -

!

-.vl

.Lra . a'

"Would I choose a lifesryle

where we can't visit each

other in hospital, where I

might have to fight to go

to the funeral? You don't

choose - you fall in love"

Holly Putetbaugh

F'

b

t

.9)

E

Clockwise from

above: The lawyer

Beth Robinson

representirrg the six

plaintiffs at the

centre of the Baker

v Vefmont case;

Robeit Charleswodh

testifies against gal/

marnage at a

Vermont hearing in

February; Stan Bakef,

left, and Petef

Harrigan are all

smiles after the

Vermont Supreme

Court rule that same_

sex coupleshould

nave !ne same

marriage benefits as

opposite-sex couples

5 lvlarch 2ooo sundayherald 17


Baker v vermont debarc lilst )€ar. lhe

equally contentio s Westboro Baptist

Church ofTopeka in Kansas arrived in

Vermonts stale capital, Monlpelier The

church earned its tarnished rePutation ir

the sake of the nurder of gav studeDl

lvlanherv Shepard in \ l'omiDg in October

1998. The 2l-)€ar-old \1as picked up b,v

hvo local Dren named Russell HeDderson

and Aaron McKinnel'. Thev drcve lrim to a

remote spot. lashed him to a fence. then

beat him with their gtns. Shepard \\as

foLlnd the nexl day b1'a nrountain-biker

\\,ho initiallv thought the lifeless. bloodand

tear-stained figure \\,as a scarecro\'

Matthe$,died as a result ofblood loss

sustained thrcugh his beating anil

hypothermia.'I]le Kansas-based churcl]

appeared in W),oming to attend llis

furcral carrying signs \\'l'tich read: "Fags

Die God lnughs". Their website feahres a

graphic of lhe murdered Shepard burning

in flames. Visitors to the site are able to

do$'nload an audio-file which they're told

rcprcsents the screaming victim bu ing

in hell for the sin of being gala The

Westboro Baptist Church had litile or no

impact pon the Vermont Population

despite its pronouncement that "€a),s are

sodomites and Vermont is now a leper

colonv where the unclean dwell". These

activists had loner departed b.v the time

the Supreme Court had issued its findings

at the end oflast )€ar

Neither Randall Terry nor the Kansas

Baptists are representative of lhe various

mostly religious, Vermont-based antisame-sex

marriage grcups and individuals

drat have been lobbying for lhe Supreme

Court's December 20 ruliDg to be

o\€rtumed.

In the interests of faimess lhe

legislators decided to hold open hearings

itMontpelier's Srate House. These lasted

several hours and rvere held on hvo

separate occasions. They followed other

sessions where the ll politicians heard

from experts on marriage la\\l marriage

hislory, religious opinion and gay and

lesbian matters. lvlembers of lhe Public

\\,ho \\anted to testify placed their names

in a hat and were picked at random

The first open hearing $as ananged for

the end ofJanuary A far larger crorvd

tumed up at the normally quiet md

sDacious Siate House than $as expected.

drer 2000 people packed the buildinS

The local Roman Catholic Bishop, Kenneth

AnSBll, had hoped to hold a multifailh

rally on the steps of tlle building voicing

his opposition to both domestic

partnerships and same_sex marriage. A

blizzard prel€nted his appearance.

A wtEK later, finding a 8ap

/ \ benveen another nvo blizzards

f--a that brought the state to a

1 \standstill. the Bishop finall)'

made it to the State House. Under a hea\A

shroud of mist and covered in la)€rs of

fresh snorv those rvho oPposed gay

marriages stood in fteezing tempemtures

- "God!

some \vea ng stickers saying

Plan Is Betier: One Man and One Woman'

- and listening to Bishop Angell:

"This

18 .undayhsrald 5 March 2000

rallv belongs to the people! People of:rll

thiths. For dedicated Americar)s and Proud

Vemronters! Our llearts must lol harbour

hate anger, bigotry \'iolence or

discrimin{tion. We must not forget the

pain and struggles of our homosexllal

brothe$ and sisters."

lt las a mlred and rvell-beharcd

$lthering. Therc \\€re middle-a€rd couples

lvho didn t look as if lhey d attended maq'

demonsffations in tltir time, standing

quiet\,listening to the speeches They

reDresented a siFdficant $oup ofordinary

oioole. Some had religious obiections to

env marriage;others left the rrarmdr oftheir

iromes to stand in the freezing cold sinlplv

because they foresaN cultural and social

repercussions if Vermont becanle i magnet

for homosexuals from the rest of the USA

\\anting to get nrarried. The Bishop had

publicly asked any anti-same-sex nrariage

ixtremists ro stay aNay since they \vouldn'

be welco e. Some Caiholic shrdents from a

nearbl, school attended wea ng pro-same

'Fshirts

sex marriage and carryingbanners

They stood calmly io one side and behind

the Bishop in silent protest.

,-l--tHE press had carried reports

I earlier which highlighted the

I complexiry of this issue and the

I- responses it drew: one statement

issued by 850 members of the clergy from

\arious faiths urg€d that same-sex couples

should be blessed and that there should

be tolerance for openl,v gay members of

fte clergy. (Man)' churches will bless a

"conmitmenl

same-sex

cerernony' if the

couple request it. Recently some Us-based

Methodist and Presbyterian ministers

openly revolted agai[st senior church

figures by conducting such rites) Another

nermpaper report from the same l'eek

shted that Catholic pdests in the USA

$€re dying of AJDs-relared illnesses at a

rate four times higher rhan the general

population. One priest whod treated those

suffering, clairned that most ofthe priests

contracted the condition thrcugh samesex

relations. A separate media report

chronicled a plea from a local chapter ofa

group of gay and lesbian Roman Caiholics

called Dicnity USA $'ho ur€ed fello\\'

Catholics to form their own opinion on

the issue based on the doctrine of

Primacy of Conscience, \'hich advises

people to follo$, their conscience when

deciding upon difficult issues

Frozen brcaths were exhaled and gloved

hands banged together in ippreciation as

the Bishop exhorted his audience to sign a

petition heU or€nnised that: "we the

unde$igned wish to inform our legislators

rhat \\€ are firm believers in the sanctit)

of traditional marriage behveen a man ancl

a woman. As such we ale opposed lo an)'

legislation in support of same-sex

'

marriage and/or domestic partnerships

The Bishop had made his position clear

in an earlier statement "Our opposition to

same-sex marriaeie is videly kno\T r. We

believe that marriagE is a Sacred covenant

between one man and one \\'oman.

entered into for life and open to lhe

possibility ofchildren and family we

belie\€ that a stable. lifelong relationshiP

ofhusband and wif'e best serves the

procreation. care and education of

children. \4/e believe that re-defining

mafiiag3. expanding it to include orher

Drilate relationships. \'\'ill ultimarcly attack

ihe age-old truth that traditional marriages

and stable fanrilies constitute dre very

foundation of our society." Further

remarks in the same \ein argued that

domestic partnership arrangements would

also be opposed because lhey "will be one

step to\\ard Ifull acceptance ofsame-sex

marriage .

As a regrlar church-goer and having

been in a heterosexual marriage in the

past (lre and his Former wife did not have

ahildren) Baker is \€ll aware of lhe moral

and religious arguments against his mo\€

to legalise same-sex marriages. "The

maiorit), ofthe people who oppose this

tend ro oppose it. not ftom a legal point of

vie\\,. but from a spirilual point of view

lbutl this is a civil issue. It's \€ry

important ftat people understand what

we are asking for is the right to civil

maniage. we are not asking any

lreligious] denomination that doesn t want

to marry same gender people [to do so]."

This conflict ofopinion was reflected

inside the Vermont statehouse. For the

second timq rnore than 2000 people

gathered for the public hearings. Extra

police were drafied in lo cope with the

numbers. An emergency escape route had

been planned for the ll legislatoN i[ case

oftrouble. One politiciaD, sensing the

threat of extremisi danepr. commented in

a press report that: "Sometimes you look

at dre gallery and think 'What if someone

had a gun ...' We're all sitting ducks here."

Each randomly chosen member of the

public spoke for n'r'o minutes. Those for

either same-sex marriage/domestic

DartnerchiD \{,erc rotated with those

opposing ii. There ruere no outbursts. No

screeching diatribes. No name-calling.

Iust a ne\er-ending parade ofhuman life

giving opinion after opinion. The

legislators, well a\\are that lhey were

being filmed and photographed by the

media, sat bolt upright with alert

expressions. No matter what they heard

they tbanked the speaker and took note

ofthe commenrs.

One elde y man said: "Iiaditions are

important. But in the fullness of lime we

can look back and see that not all

tradirions \vere right. Slavery SeEregation.

Men-only haviug the ght to vote. Bans

on inter-racial maiiage. All of these were

founded on tradition, then, as nov

justified b,v well-meaning people offaith

quoting selectile passages ofsc ptue.

we know today that these traditions were

hardl,v sacred." He explained that he d

been ma ied for o\€r five decades, had

children and $andchildren - none of

\.\,hom{'ere gay - but could not for lhe

life ofhim believe that same-sex marriage

rvould adversel), affect his life. "My plea is

that yotl not be dri\el by fear of change.

That might be welcomed by some but it

rvould rvrong.lfstate legislators in the

south back in the Fifties could have

5( ^r

5lavery.

Segregation.

No vote for

women. All

of these were

founded on

tradition. We

know today

that these

traditions

were hardly

sacredt'

An eldelly

man speaks in

favout of gay

manlages


I

d\

| !t:i ti iltti:!1utttrf!tut !!!!Itlt

n, ,...;iillj

maintained their long-standing tradition

of se$egation by taking it to the people

theyd hare done so in a minute. The

popular rote would have supported them.

But it vould have been {Tong."

Another spealer opposed to the bill, a

businessman, passion{tely said he'd

caN€ssed "hundreds and hundreds" of

people whod told him they rvere against

the idea of same-sex marriage. Some had

told him they vould leave the state if any

such la\v was passed. Another man said

with obvious corviction that he and his

son s,ere fearfrrl ofa mass influr ofgays

and lesbians to Vermont for lreddings.

(An ea ier press report noted that siate

B&B/hotel o\\.'nerc $€re $"rming to the

thouEfit of an increase in business).

One elderl_\, woman dressed in a

patrioticalb' rcd, white and blue outfit

simplv cleared her thrcat and, Nith gusto

belted our "l think God made Adam and

Eve. he didn't make Adam and Ste\e. I

believe ga-v maniage is u'rong and I

believe there's something in the Bible

calling it an 'abomination'. Thank tou."

Orre \\€ek later, +ricker than anlone

e\pected. the legislators announced to a

stunned public and press that ihey'd

reached a decision.

By a vote of8-3 it had been decided to

draft a bill by the beginning of March that

$.ould cater in a "broadened" uay for

"domestic partnership' arrangements.

leaked reports underlined the volatile

complicated naturc of the whole issue.

David Zuckerman. a 28-vear-old

Progressi\€ Party Representative \'\,ho's

been closely monitoring the whole samesex

marriage debate said: "Ifthe Domestic

Partnership bill is crcated so that erery

reference in the larvs of Vermont are

pamlleled \\,ith marriage then we will get

as close to separate but equal as possible.

That may stand up in coult and then the

issue rvould be done here for a long time.

lButl If a really poorly $,ritten lDomestic

Partnershipl bill gets out ther the courts

may say that the bill does not create

equality and then may find that [same-ser]

marriage is the only $,ay"

The pause button has been hit. Everyone

is keeping their counsel until the-v see the

fine print of lhe new bill in the next ferv

'$€eks. Meantime, the legislators are

burning the nidnight oil ard Ensacking

the legal dictionary in order to create a

new la\\' for same-sex couples \\,ho \\ant

to legally unite.

What is clear is drat this new legislation

\\,ill be microscopicall)' scmtinised by

adrocates and opponents. Those opposed

lo same-se\ mafiu8es may muster

support to place a constitutional

amendment on the table that 1\,ill later be

put to a public. state-\\'ide vote. If that

happens, the outcome is aq,ones guess

same-sex marriag€s are furious that the

Supreme Court Dade its decision in

private. They argue that this is too

important an issue to ha\€ beerl treated as

a point oflaw and that it should have

baen put to the people first, Ifthe

Ha\+aiian and Alaskan examples are

anything to gp b! there's a fiir chance a

populairote, even in quirky Vermont,

iould result in the new domestic

partne$hip la'ws being scrapped. But that

could take'up to fire liears to happen. In

the eantime \\,hat the state has \\,ill be

the closest thing to same-sex marriaEe to

exist aq vhere in the Norld. Many

Scandinavian countries allow same-se\

couples to register their domestic

partnerships in a $,ay that fornalll'

recognises thet status under their

respective l€al qstems. But Done \\,ill

have gpne as far as Vermont.

This means that soon Stan Baker and

Perer Hanigan Nillbe able to legal\ unire.

alrhough strictly speaking they can't

marry Bakers reaction is positi\e. but

guarded: 'with a domestic partDership

thing I eiuess I don't \\qnt lo sa],until I

know Nhat its like. Bul I guess dlat

somewhere down lhe liDe \\€'re going to

ha\€ a marriage cercmon), of some kind

somervhere."

Of his opponents' moti\€tion. Baker is

sure of one thins: "Ther,'re afraid that

The Public opinion is split. ivlaly opponents of le're the same.'@

5 lvlarch 2ooo Brndryftelald 19

over 2000 people

jam into the

Vermont

Statehouse on

February l, eager to

testify and listen as

legislators declde

how to implement

the Suprcme cout-t

ruling giving gay

couples the same

rights and benefits

as nomosexual

couples

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