Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Same-sex couples begin to marry in Vermont

In another example of Green Mountain kitsch, Ben & Jerry's has changed the name of their Chubby Hubby ice cream to Hubby Hubby this month to commemorate the start of marriage for same-sex couples in Vermont.

Vermont became the fourth state to extend marriage to gays and lesbians after lawmakers narrowly overrode Gov. Jim Douglas' veto of the bill in April. Legislators in neighboring New Hampshire and Maine followed suit a few weeks later.

The Green Mountain State became the first in the country to allow gays and lesbians to enter into civil unions after then-Gov. Howard Dean signed legislation in 2000. The associated debate was quite contentious. And I recall several large signs that read "Take Vermont Back" along Interstate 89 in the weeks leading up to the vote. In less than a decade, however, civil unions has become something of a political benchmark for moderate Democrats and Republicans alike. But LGBT activists and their progressive allies continue to correctly point out civil unions are not the same as marriage for gays and lesbians.

The extension of civil unions to gays and lesbians in Vermont nearly a decade ago brought the marriage equality debate into the forefront. And the Green Mountain State is now among the half a dozen states that allow gays and lesbians to marry. This contentious debate will obviously continue to rage in the coming years as more states move to allow their gay and lesbian residents to tie the knot, but the fact same-sex couples are now able to marry in Vermont represents true progress.

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