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UPDATE: Vermont approves Gay marriage
UPDATE: Vermont approves Gay marriage
by Lisa Keen - Keen News Service

The Vermont House voted 95 to 52 Thursday night, April 2, to approve a bill that will allow same-sex couples to marry. While the vote fell just five votes shy of a veto-proof margin, supporters are still hopeful of picking up those votes between now and next Tuesday, when the override vote is expected to take place.

"It's been an extraordinary evening," said openly Gay Rep. Bill Lippert (D-Hinesburg), who led the effort to pass the bill in the House. "There was such powerful, emotional and very, very positive testimony. The House was filled with supporters. It's an extraordinary achievement."

Beth Robinson, who heads up the Vermont Freedom to Marry group that has spearheaded support for the measure both in and out of the legislature, called the vote "absolutely gratifying."

The vote in the House came after more than four hours of dramatic speeches that included choked up voices, tears, and even apologia.

Rep. Sonny Audette (R-South Burlington) said he was voting against the measure with "a heavy heart" because, as a "devout Catholic & my religion will not allow me to vote for this bill. I wish I could."

But many others could, including legislators who said they had voted against civil unions 10 years ago, when Vermont became the first state to provide any legal recognition for same-sex relationships.

"I'm not particularly religious and I voted against civil unions in 1999," said Rep. Rick Hube (R-South Londonderry). But since then, he said, had come to believe this vote was about "being true to a set of principles" about individual choice, and he voted for the measure.

Suzi Wizowaty (D-Burlington) said she had been in a same-sex relationship for 30 years, did not enter into a civil union and had done nothing to support the Freedom to Marry effort.

"In recent weeks, I've given more thought as to why," said Wizowaty. "It's because it's been too painful to have to & supplicate myself in that way." She thanked Freedom to Marry supporters for their work and their courage.

Another openly Gay legislator, Jason Lorber (D-Burlington), said he, too, was intimidated by the process of having to ask his colleagues to approve his marriage. Choking back tears, he told the story of he and his husband sending their wedding photo to a local paper and opening up the paper's wedding section to see all the beautiful straight couples under the weddings banner and their photo sequestered in a corner under the title "civil unions."

"Why do we have to differentiate?" asked Lorber. "Why do we have to say, 'You are different.' Why can't we just say, 'Congratulations.'"

The 95 to 52 vote on the bill was foreshadowed earlier in the evening when the House voted on an amendment that sought to delay action on the bill until voters were given a chance to weigh in through a referendum. That measure failed 52 to 96.

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