For advocates of same-sex marriage, a sense of history in the making

04/07/09 5:52PM By Ross Sneyd
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AP Photo/Toby Talbot
Sen. John Campbell, D-Windsor, left, congratulates Susan Murray, right, following the passage of a gay marriage bill in Montpelier, Vt., Tuesday, April 7

(Host) There was an almost-festive air in the Statehouse among advocates for same-sex marriage.

Even before any votes were cast in the House or Senate, there was a sense of history in the making.

VPR's Ross Sneyd has that story.

(Tour) "The Statehouse's Cedar Creek Room is very much part of what goes on in the building...''

(Sneyd) On the surface, it was any other day under the Golden Dome.

Curator David Schutz conducted a tour of the historic building.

(Pledge) ...one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.''

(Sneyd) House members recited the Pledge of Allegiance.

But the crowds around the building made it clear that this was not just any other day.

Linda Weiss sat at the front of the chamber as she waited for lawmakers to convene.

(Weiss) "It is an honor to be here. I love this country. I love the system. I love the process. And so I'm soaking it in. But I'm also spending a lot of time talking to many legislators whom I know because I've spent a lot of campaigns over the years and have personal relationships with a lot of folks.''

(Sneyd) And once the vote was announced, joyous celebrations began. Supporters far outnumbered opponents at the Statehouse.

In a meeting room downstairs from the House floor, lawyer Beth Robinson was greeted like a hero.

(ThankYou) "Thank you, Beth. Thank you, Beth.''

(Sneyd) Twelve years ago, Robinson sued on behalf of same-sex three couples who wanted to marry. The Supreme Court agreed with her argument and eventually the Legislature adopted civil unions.

She's worked ever since to take what she describes as the final step toward full marriage equality. The veto override vote was the culmination of her advocacy.

(Robinson) "And all of us together have made our voices heard. We've shown that truth and fairness and justice and love are more powerful than one man's veto pen.''

(Sneyd) That pen was wielded by Governor Jim Douglas.

He was somewhat subdued after the cliffhanger vote in the House and didn't share in the celebrations taking place elsewhere in the building.

(Douglas) "This is not a time for congratulations, it's a time for moving on. I really believe that Vermonters ought to focus on the future - accept the outcome of this vote today, I certainly do that, but now come together and respect each other's different point of view, but work together in the areas where we have a common interest.''

(Sneyd) But for jubilant couples who embraced and wept, there were plenty of congratulations to go around.

Beth Robinson says legalizing same-sex marriage is enough for a big party.

(Robinson) "We will be having a party. Keep an eye on our Web site. We're going to do it right. This is not the awards banquet right here. We will do better. But I think it's fitting that we acknowledge what we've all accomplished together here today.''

(Sneyd) Supporters say there will be a lot of celebrations this fall when the weddings will begin.

For VPR News, I'm Ross Sneyd in Montpelier.

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