Seeking Gay Marriage Equality in Vermont

Beth Robinson c0-counsel in the landmark Baker case that essentially won equality in the Vermont courts in 1999 but lost it to a new invention called “civil unions” in the Vermont legislature in 2000 continues to push for full marriage equality. In the August 12th issue of the Rutland Herald, she sensibly defends the Vermont legislature’s creation of a “primarily citizen panel” that will take up the real inequities of the rights afforded to same-sex couples with civil unions contrasted with full rights afforded to heterosexual couples with marriage. 

While some Vermonters who do not support marriage equality are saying that this panel, that will report back in 2008, is divisive because other priorites for families are more pressing, Robinson argues pointedly that all families of Vermonters need to be considered. “For many of us, what’s divisive is laws that put families formed by same-sex couples in a separate category from families formed by heterosexual couples. The commission process won’t create division; it will repond to fissures that exist in our laws to help heal the division.”

Vermont House Speaker Gaye Symington and Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin should be applauded for creating a panel to consider, as Robinson says, “whether there’s a good reason to keep separate legal structures for same-sex couples and heterosexual couples in Vermont.”

Robinson, Susan Murray, and Mary Bonauto were visionary in forging the Vermont case that led to our nation’s first shred of same-sex relationship equality, civil unions in 2000. Bonauto’s 2003 marriage equality victory in the Massachusetts courts set a new standard of equality for same-sex couples. Robinson points out that 2007 is a different era from 2000. For one, Massachusetts over the past 3 years has demonstrated that full marriage equality for all citizens does not breed any social discord.

Robinson led the way for same-sex couples in Vermont in the courts and as the chairwoman of Vermont Freedom to Marry she is sensibly leading the way in democratic discourse among citizens. The pace of progress is measured and Robinson and others have their eyes on the prize of full marriage equality. She knows it works in Massachusetts. Her visionary colleague Bonauto has shown the way in the state just south of Vermont.

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