Marriage bill shakes up Vt.

Inside ‘Freedom to Marry’The BillThe bill, introduced to the House on Feb. 6, proposes to permit same-sex couples to marry. The purpose of this legislation, as written in the bill, seeks to promote legal equality in Vermont’s civil marriage laws.The bill also details that any clergy person or religious society has the right to refuse to solemnize a marriage, as protected under their religious liberties in the First Amendment of the Constitution.The HearingMore than 900 people came to the Vermont statehouse to listen to the open testimonies that went on for three hours. Out of the 200 people who were signed up to speak, only 70 had the opportunity to come to the microphone.   According to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Richard Sears, 115 people signed up to speak in support of same-sex marriage while 85 were signed up to speak against it.OPPOSITIONVermont Governor Jim Douglas (R) has opposed the bill, saying that he believes civil unions are enough. He has not said if he would veto the bill if it passes. In 2000, when Vermont was the first state to pass civil unions in the United States, more than 12 legislators who had voted in support of civil unions were not re-elected.SUPPORTWith democratic control of both chambers of the Legislature, leaders pledged earlier in the month to pass a same-sex marriage bill before adjournment in May.The Judiciary Committee of the Vermont Senate approved the bill on March 20. The full Senate will take up the measure this week.