House gives strong preliminary support to same sex marriage bill

04/03/09 7:04AM By Bob Kinzel
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AP Photo/Toby Talbot
Rep. Steve Howard, D-Rutland, who is gay, hugs Rep. David Zuckerman, P-Burlington, following preliminary approval of a same sex marriage bill.

(Host) The House last night gave its strong preliminary approval to the same sex marriage bill, but it's not clear from the House vote, if backers of the legislation have enough support to override Governor Jim Douglas's promised veto of the bill.

VPR's Bob Kinzel reports.

(Smith)"Please listen to the results of your vote, those voting yes 95, those voting no 52 and you have ordered third reading of the bill."

(Kinzel) With that announcement by House Speaker Shap Smith, the same sex marriage bill crossed another important hurdle. The House debated the bill for over 5 hours and dozens of members rose to speak on the measure.

House Judiciary chairman Bill Lippert said that while Vermont's current Civil Union law gives same sex couples many of the legal benefits of marriage, the law fails to provide the important societal significance of marriage:

(Lippert) "We are not just granting the bundle of rights privileges and responsibilities we're granting access to the institution of marriage and the institution of marriage itself holds deep meaning."

(Kinzel) Much of the debate in the afternoon focused on an amendment calling for a non binding statewide referendum on this issue in 2010. House members rejected the amendment by a vote of 96 to 52.

In the evening, the debate turned very personal. Burlington Rep. Jason Lorber, who is gay, urged his colleagues to support the bill so that he and his partner can be legally married:

(Lorber) "Why do we have to differentiate why do we have to say you are different why can't we just say congratulations ?"

(Kinzel) Barre Town Rep. Tom Koch said he was moved by the comments made in support of the bill, but in the end, Koch said he had to vote against the legislation because he views marriage as a union between a man and a woman:

(Koch) "But there are differences between the relationship between a man and woman and a same sex relationship and I believe that there is value in not confusing those relationships by applying the same them to them."

(Kinzel) It takes a two thirds vote in both the House and the Senate to override a gubernatorial veto. While it's likely that supporters have enough votes in the Senate, the outlook in the House is less certain.

That's because several members who voted against the bill have indicated that they may vote to override the veto and some members who voted for the bill, say they may decide to support the Governor.

For VPR News I'm Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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