Senate, House Prepare for Override Vote

04/07/09 7:34AM By Bob Kinzel
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AP Photo/Toby Talbot
(Host) Governor Jim Douglas vetoed the same sex marriage bill last night, setting the stage for override votes in the Senate and the House this morning.

While the Senate is expected to override the governor's veto, the outcome in the House is less certain. But backers of the bill say they're cautiously optimistic that they will also prevail in that chamber. 

If this happens, Vermont will become the first state in the country to adopt same sex marriage through a legislative - and not a judicial - process.

VPR's Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Backers of the bill need 100 votes today in the House to override the governor's veto.  Middlebury College political science professor emeritus Eric Davis thinks there are several things have to happen for supporters to reach this total.

First, he says the 5 Republicans who voted for the bill last week need to support the override motion.

Davis thinks this will happen because, unlike other override votes in recent years, the Governor has made a conscious decision not to pressure the Republicans to support his veto:

(Davis) "These members are free to vote on the override the same way they did in the first vote on Thursday."

Davis says the second key group is the 11 Democrats who voted against the bill.  Several from Chittenden County have indicated that they'll support the override because they object to the way the governor has dealt with this issue.

But Davis says some Democrats from other parts of the state may not take this approach:

(Davis) "Franklin county is one of the most conservative parts of the state it's where the Republicans concentrated on picking up House seats in the last election cycle several of these Franklin county Democrats who voted no are first term members and for constituency reasons they are almost certainly likely to remain in the no column and same for Democrats in Caledonia County and Rutland County who voted no on Thursday."

UVM political science professor Garrison Nelson thinks the governor is taking a huge political risk with his veto.

That's because Nelson says roughly 40 percent of the people who voted for Douglas in 2008 also voted for President Obama and Nelson says many of these voters may decide not to support Douglas in the future:

(Nelson) "And this time the passion is on the side of the pros people who are pro gay marriage and these are people not likely to forget and whether or not Douglas leans on the Republicans in the Legislature or doesn't lean on them is immaterial the fact of the matter is he's going to be associated with this veto and it's going to be wrapped around his neck."

The Senate is set to consider the veto override at 9 this morning and the House is expected to begin its debate shortly after the Senate vote.

For VPR News I'm Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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Complete VPR coverage of the same sex marriage bill
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