For Seventh Time In Vermont History, A Successful Veto Override

04/08/09 6:34AM By John Dillon
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AP Photo/Toby Talbot
Rep. Jason Lorber, D-Burlington, right, gets a hug from Rep. Alison Clarkson, D-Woodstock, following the passage of a same sex marriage bill.
For only the seventh time in Vermont history, the Legislature has overruled a gubernatorial veto.

That override now means Vermont is the fourth state to allow gays and lesbians couples to marry.

And it's the first state to do so without being prompted by a court order.

VPR's John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) The vote came after a weekend of intense lobbying. No one knew if supporters could muster the two-thirds majority needed to override Republican governor Jim Douglas' veto.

The crowded House chamber erupted into applause as the vote was announced.

(Smith) Those voting yes, 100. Those voting  no, 49. 100 needed to pass, you have voted to override the veto. (Applause) The House will come to order!

(Dillon) The celebration continued outside the House chamber. Robert Dostis noted that on September 14 th he and his partner Chuck Kletecka will have been together for 25 years.

(Dostis) Is that a proposal?

Yes!

Twenty five years together I think it's time we finally got married.

(Dillon) Kletecka said the legislation will add social and legal acceptance to their long-term relationship.

(Kletecka) We're as good and as bad as any other group of people, and now I think we have a chance to prove ourselves from here on forward, that we're good members of our community, we're a good couple, we're good family members, and we're happy to be part of the entire community now.

(Dillon) The legislature approved the marriage bill nine years after Vermont became the first state to allow civil unions for same sex couples.

Under the legislation, civil unions performed in the past would still be recognized. But after September 1st when the law takes effect, just marriage licenses will be granted to both same sex and heterosexual couples.

The legislation drew weekly protests along with the gubernatorial veto. Craig Bensen, a minister from the independent United Church in Cambridge, said lawmakers who voted for the bill may pay a price at the polls.

(Bensen) I personally don't see myself running for anything, but I see myself and my friends very active in encouraging good candidates who are more concerned about the business of Vermont than they are about pushing social agenda hobby horses.

(Dillon) Although four states have now legalized same sex marriage, House Speaker Shap Smith says the Vermont vote is still historic.

(Smith) I'm happy that we were able to the first Legislature to actually pass marriage equality without a court order. I think that really is a statement, and I'm glad that we were able to do it through the democratic process.

(Dillon) Opponents - including Governor Douglas - said the legislature was distracted by the marriage debate and needed to focus more on the economy.

Legal experts say that for a Vermont marriage to be recognized in another state, that state would have to accept same sex marriage.

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

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