Listen to the Documentary
Ten years ago in December, the Vermont Supreme Court changed the landscape of legal rights for same-sex couples when it handed down its ruling in the case Baker v. State of Vermont. The plaintiffs had argued that they deserve the rights of marriage, just as heterosexual couples do. In the decade since, the country has seen dramatic debate over the legal status of gay and lesbian couples, and VPR gives context and meaning to that debate in this news documentary.
Join us for an examination of how the country has wrestled with the deeply personal and very public questions of what marriage means, how to legally recognize gay and lesbian couples, and how ideas of family and civil rights are challenged by these questions.
States of Marriage examines how several states have approached legal recognition for gay and lesbian couples. We examine the divisive civil unions precedent in Vermont, and how it set the stage for a marriage law in Massachusetts. Listen as political leaders and key strategists on both sides of the question reflect on their efforts to convince voters and courts of their cause, and hear the results of that debate in California, Iowa and Maine. And learn where the debate may go next, at the state and national levels.
VPR News Coverage
- Commission on same-sex marriage issues report (April 2008)
- Public hearing on same-sex marriage draws 1,000 (March 2009)
- Vermont Edition coverage and reaction of the Legislature's override vote (April 2009)
- Dartmouth College Law Day panel: Supreme Court justices from Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut discuss their states' rulings on same-sex marriage (May 2009)
Vermont Timeline: Civil Unions and Same-Sex Marriage
- April 1997: Three same-sex couples apply for marriage licenses in their Chittenden County towns, and are denied.
- July 1997: Lawsuit is filed on behalf of the couples, Baker v. State of Vermont.
- November 1998: Vermont Supreme Court hears opening arguments in the Baker case.
- December 1999: Vermont Supreme Court rules in favor of the Baker plaintiffs and instructs the Legislature to afford them the same rights as married heterosexual couples.
- January 2000: Vermont Legislature returns to Montpelier. The House Judiciary Committee dedicates all of its time to the issue of same-sex marriage.
- January and February 2000: Vermonters fill the Statehouse for two evening hearings of public testimony on the issue.
- February 2000: House Judiciary Committee takes a 'straw poll' and determines it will move forward with a bill to create a parallel institution, not same-sex marriage.
- March 2000: Vermont House of Representatives passes the civil unions bill.
- April 2000: Vermont Senate passes the civil unions bill. House agrees to Senate version. Governor Howard Dean privately signs civil unions into law.
- July 1, 2000: The first civil unions are performed in Vermont at midnight.
- November 2000: Control of the Vermont House of Representatives changes over from Democrats to Republicans, partly in a backlash against civil unions.
- Winter 2001: Republican majority in the Vermont House votes to replace civil unions with reciprocal benefits. Vermont Senate declines to take up the measure.
- Spring 2008: A legislative commission headed by Tom Little reports on Vermonters' sentiments on same-sex marriage, based on hearings the commission held around the state. Opponents of same-sex marriage boycotted the hearings.
- March 23, 2009: A same-sex marriage bill passes the Vermont Senate.
- March 25, 2009: Governor Jim Douglas announces that if the Legislature sends the bill to his desk, he will veto it.
- April 3, 2009: The Vermont House of Representatives passes the same-sex marriage bill.
- April 6, 2009: Governor Douglas vetoes it.
- April 7, 2009: Vermont Senate and House vote to override Governor Douglas' veto, passing same-sex marriage into law.
- September 1, 2009: First same-sex marriages in Vermont are performed at midnight.