>From: Sandra Spiegel <[log in to unmask]>
>>Date: 25 Apr 2000 14:38:54 EDT
>>From: [log in to unmask] (Susan E. Cox)
>>To: [log in to unmask] (Susan E. Cox)
>>Vermont Gay Union Bill Is Approved
>> By ROSS SNEYD, Associated Press Writer
>> MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - Vermont lawmakers gave final approval Tuesday to a
>bill that would make the state the
>> first in the nation to give gay and lesbian couples the benefits of
>> Gov. Howard Dean has promised to sign the bill and may do so by the end of
>the week. The first civil unions
>> ceremonies could take place after July 1.
>> The final House vote on accepting Senate amendments was 79-68.
>> ``The granting of the equal protections of
>the law by providing the legal
>> protections, benefits and responsibilities
>that flow from marriage will not
>> diminish your humanity, your dignity, your
>freedom or independence,''
>> House Judiciary Committee Chairman Thomas
>> ``The continued denial of these legal
>protections, benefits and
>> responsibilities to a small but vulnerable
>class of Vermont's citizens
>> diminishes their humanity, dignity, freedom and independence,'' he said.
>> Opponents made one last attempt to derail the bill before the final vote.
>A Republican representative proposed
>> delaying the vote until Nov. 30, after the fall elections, but the move
>was defeated 84-63.
>> The bill would create civil unions as a legal framework parallel to
>> Same-sex couples would be able to go to their town clerk to obtain a civil
>union license, just as opposite-sex couples
>> obtain marriage licenses.
>> The civil unions then would be certified by a justice of the peace, judge
>or member of the clergy, just as marriages.
>> Breakups between civil-union partners would be handled like divorces,
>through Family Court, although they would
>> be called dissolutions.
>> Civil-union partners would gain all of the benefits that the state confers
>through marriage, such as making medical
>> decisions on behalf of partners or inheritance.
>> The state action, however, has no effect on federal programs, such as
>> The biggest Senate change the House had to accept was moving up the date
>when the first civil unions could be
>> formed, to July 1 instead of two months later under the original House
>measure. Other Senate amendments dealt
>> largely with language and did not change the substance of the bill.
>> After the Hawaii Supreme Court raised the possibility of same-sex
>marriages in 1993 - a prospect the state's voters
>> later rejected - 30 states and the federal government passed laws denying
>recognition to same-sex marriages.