House gives final approval to same-sex marriage bill

04/03/09 5:51PM By John Dillon
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AP Photo/T. Talbot
(Host) The House has given final approval to a bill legalizing same-sex marriage.

But the tally was several votes short of the total needed to override a veto from Governor Jim Douglas.

And so the scramble is on by Democratic leaders to secure the votes they need.

VPR's John Dillon has more:

(Dillon) The override vote is on a fast track. Legislative leaders expect the governor to veto the bill on Monday. The bill will then return to the Senate, where leaders are confident they have the votes to override.

The bill's fate is much less certain in the House, where it passed with less than the two-thirds majority needed to make it law, despite the governor's objection. House Speaker Shap Smith says he's asking members to respect the legislative process.

(Smith) "I think that part of it really is acknowledging the work of the Legislature and acknowledging the work of your colleagues, and acknowledging that more than two-thirds of the Senate have voted in favor of this bill, and more than 60 percent of the House. And it appears that a majority of Vermonters favor it. I think that that is a signal to members that they ought to vote to let it become law."

(Dillon) Democrats are about four votes shy of pushing back the governor's veto.

But it's possible that some members who voted against the bill will change their tack on the override vote.

South Burlington Democrat Sonny Audette is a Catholic who did not support the bill for religious reasons. But Audette says he may change his mind and vote in favor of the override.

(Audette) "Because I feel the governor has shown a lack of respect for the House.... The one thing that really upset me was that all of a sudden at the last minute, he came out and said, ‘Oh, I'm going to veto it.'"

(Dillon) Audette says if he votes to override, it will be in response to the governor's veto announcement.

(Audette) "The problem is we don't get many chances to slap back, and this may be one of them." 

(Dillon) But St. Albans Democrat Jeff Young - who voted against the bill - says he doesn't understand that argument.

(Young) "If I'm against the legislation, why would I turn around and negate my original vote?"

(Dillon) Unlike other veto votes in recent years, Governor Douglas says he will not pressure lawmakers to support his position on same sex marriage.

(Douglas) This is such a tough, personal, emotional decision that I have not told people what to do. I've said what I'm going to do. I've made my position quite clear. I think each legislator is going to have to decide for himself or herself, and ultimately answer to the constituents."

(Dillon) The final vote came after more than an hour of intense, personal debate. Northfield Republican Anne Donahue talked about her Catholic faith, and she told the House that the bill does not conflict with her religion.

(Donahue) "Acknowledging the love, the commitment and family relationships of those who express their love in the way - and as part of who they are - as part of the who they are that God made, and made to be good - does not intrude on my faith, or the definition of marriage as religions may define it."

(Dillon) The final vote was 94 in favor, 52 against. But several members were absent. Democratic leaders have not firmed up the final schedule for the override vote in the House. They may schedule it later in the week to give them time to lobby a few reluctant lawmakers.

For VPR News, I'm John Dillon in Montpelier.

 

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