Same sex marriage hearing draws 1,000 people

03/19/09 7:34AM By Bob Kinzel
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(Host) Approximately a thousand people came to the Statehouse last night to attend a special public hearing on the same sex marriage bill.

During the three hour hearing, dozens of Vermonters testified both in favor and against the legislation.

VPR's Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) It was standing room only in the House chamber, where the hearing took place, and the overflow crowd filled the two major public conference rooms and the cafeteria at the Statehouse.       

Just outside the Statehouse, opponents posted "Take Back Vermont" signs that were left over from the Civil Union debate in 2000 - inside hundreds of supporters of the bill wore bright yellow buttons.

The House and Senate Judiciary committees alternated testimony throughout the hearing - a supporter would then be followed by an opponent.

Rosemary Pelletier of Pownal urged the lawmakers to pass the bill:

(Pelletier) "Once again civil union is not marriage and to be treated differently hurts it hurts every time we leave the state and we know that our bond is not recognized if we go to a hospital we have no idea if we will be treated as a couple or not. It even hurts tonight to be treated differently I ask you which of the people who are married in this room has had to come before their Legislature and beg for the permission to marry the person that they love."

(Kinzel) But Eleanor Campbell of Waitsfield said the bill would undermine traditional marriage:

(Campbell ) "Feelings may change according to whoever is trying to influence you think for yourself -There is much gay money flowing into Vermont, $150,000 from one source alone trying to buy the soul of our state traditional marriage to destroy it and all it stands for."

(Kinzel) Mary Kirkpatrick of Bennington said passing the bill was a matter of justice for same sex couples:

(Kirkpatrick) "Vermont has always been a beacon of justice and I encourage both the House and the Senate to consider the justice angles and the equality angles and the privilege that some people are missing."

(Kinzel) But Mark Fleming said he was concerned that passage of the bill would lead to some dire situations:

(Fleming) "When civil unions were passed we were promised there wouldn't be a push for same sex marriage now we're being promised that clergy who are conscientious objectors will not be forced to perform same sex marriage ceremonies why should we believe this."

(Kinzel) The Senate Judiciary committee is expected to vote on the bill tomorrow.

For VPR News I'm Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

Click the "Play" icon below to see Bob Kinzel's photos from the hearing



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