Mullin’s vote for same-sex marriage praised by son

03/25/09 7:34AM By Nina Keck
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AP Photo/Toby Talbot

(Host)    Senator Kevin Mullin surprised many of his Rutland County constituents when he voted in favor of the same-sex marriage bill now moving through the legislature.

Supporters of the bill called the veteran Republican courageous. Others expressed outrage and threatened to help oust Mullin in the next election.   

As VPR's Nina Keck reports Mullin's youngest son waded into the fray this week to write his father a public thank you for standing up for equal rights.

(Keck)  Bartley Mullin is 21 and works for the Disney Corporation in Orlando.   Reached by cell phone, he says that despite living in Florida, he's been paying close attention to the same-sex marriage debate in Vermont.   He says it means a lot that his father supports it.

(Bartley Mullin) "I think it was a very difficult vote for him.  It made me feel really proud.  Just to know that the one person I'm supposed to look up to most supports my own rights."

(Keck)   Bartley Mullin is gay and he says reading some of the negative comments about his father in the newspaper, pushed him to write his own letter to the editor supporting his father.

(Bartley Mullin) "And it really upset me because there are a lot of people who are saying that my dad might not get re-elected simply based on this issue.  And it's really disheartening to me that he's devoted his life to Rutland County and he's done so much good and his credentials are amazing."

(Keck)    Before becoming a state senator, Kevin Mullin represented Rutland Town in the House.   In 2000, Mullin voted against civil unions, saying most of his constituents opposed it.  But this week he was representing all of Rutland County where, he says, voters are more evenly divided on same-sex marriage.   Mullin says his decision came down to two things.   One, he believes homosexuality is a trait people are born with.   And two, the Vermont Constitution dictates that different people cannot be treated differently.

(Kevin Mullin) "Certainly in a lot of minds - mine included - after that vote in 2000 some of us believed that civil unions were the equivalent of marriage.   And yet it's clear from both the proponents of this bill and the opponents of this bill that the majority of Vermonters do not believe that civil unions is the equivalent of marriage and you can't create a separate but equal status.   So I'm at peace with my vote and the voters in Rutland County will have their say if I choose to seek re-election."

(Keck)   Senator Mullin says no lawmaker should make any decision based on how it will affect their family.  But he says his son's sexual orientation likely did affect his decision because it helped him be more understanding.  He says his son's letter took him by surprise.

(Kevin Mullin) "It brought tears to my eyes.   I'm very proud of my son - both my sons.  And again, even though I would have counseled him not to write it, certainly I appreciate his thoughts."

(Keck)   The same sex-marriage bill is now being taken up by members of the House.   Mullin says he doesn't envy them their task.  Senators represent a diverse group of voters.   But he says for members of the House, controversial votes can get personal fast.   

For VPR News, I'm Nina Keck in Rutland.


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