Same sex, less marriage

Town Hall was particularly quiet the afternoon of Sept. 1, the tile floors echoing the silence on what was otherwise a historic day in Vermont.It was the first day same-sex couples could be married.”I think the excitement was past when the legislation got approved [in April],” assistant chief administrative officer at Burlington’s Town Hall Ben Pacy said on Tuesday. “It’s business as usual today.”By 1 p.m., only five same-sex couples went for a marriage license  and as of two days later, there had only been a total of nine.That number is very unlike the 405 commitment ceremonies conducted in July of 2000 — the first month civil unions were legal in the state. Despite the lack of turnout, the excitement of the day was real for one of the chairs of the Vermont Freedom to Marry Task Force, Beth Robinson, who has been working towards marriage equality for 15 years. “I felt a tremendous sense of relief,” she said about when she first heard the news that same-sex marriage was legal.Although the turnout has not been what it was with civil unions, her hopes for the rest of the month are high.”I think within the state, we’ll see comparable numbers,” Robinson said. “I think a lot of folks have done the shindig, or they’re timing it so that it coincides with their civil union, to not add another anniversary to the list.”For Clair Williams and Cori Giroux, Burlington residents who were married one minute after midnight on Sept. 1, there was never a question they would have the ceremony the day of.Despite having a commitment ceremony in Maryland three years prior, Williams described the Sept. 1 ceremony as if it were their first one.”I said to Cori, ‘oh my gosh I’m really nervous.’ It’s vulnerable,” she said. “You’re standing in front of people. You’re putting your heart out there. It certainly wasn’t about the commitment, more about the special moment,” she said.Williams added that, although the ceremony wasn’t about sending a message, it did carry larger political meaning.”I think when you’re denied something, there are political views there. We spent years in our relationship without any rights, so it affected us,” she said. “But [Tuesday] was about making it special”For Felicia Kornbluh, UVM’s new director of Women’s and Gender Studies, the passing of the legislation is an opportunity to have an academic discussion about the larger implications of same-sex marriage.”The question is, why here? What does the unique situation in Vermont really teach us? I want to explore those type of questions,” Kornbluh said. “I think it’s an opportunity to have a scholarly consideration of it,” she said. ” And then it’s for the activists — to reflect on the data we give them, considering where the next state would be to have this kind of success.”Thinking ahead is something many who have been fighting for same-sex marriage have been doing lately.”[This] is a part of the longer term struggle for federal recognition and protection,” Robinson said.Another aspect of the Robinson’s task force is making sure every senator who voted for the bill gets re-elected.Ultimately, the importance of same-sex marriage lies in the commitment many across the state are pledging to each other. “The civil union had made a huge difference in our lives, but it does feel different. It feels really special, really great,” Williams said.