Same-sex marriage: long time coming

From one perspective, the Vermont legislature’s historic veto-override vote for marriage equality happened very quickly.  From the democratic leadership’s early March announcement that they would move S. 115 before the end of the session to the final vote at 10:55 a.m. on Tuesday, April 7, it took perhaps five weeks.  The time for full equality has clearly come. This is the future, and Vermont is leading the way forward. From another perspective, the abandonment of separate and unequal treatment for gay and lesbian couples has taken too long.  It took decades for LGBT people to gain the most rudimentary of rights that most people take for granted: to rent an apartment, hold a job or hang out in a bar without discrimination, harassment or fear of arrest. It took another decade to move to the compromise of civil unions, giving state recognition to same-sex couples.  Full equality has taken yet another decade to achieve. It was a lot of work done by thousands of people. You’ve seen names of people at the top, politicians — mostly Democrats, but some Progressives and Republicans — the advocates and the spokespeople.  In the celebrations, one name has been overlooked: former Speaker of the House Gaye Symington of Jericho.It was Symington who helped plan for this outcome.It was Symington who took great care to include the testimonies of Vermonters throughout the state by way of the Vermont Commission on Family Recognition and Protection.The testimony ran 20 to 1 in favor of marriage equality for same-sex couples and laid the groundwork for this vote.But equally important are the “people next door” — the people in our communities who just believe that the state should live up to its constitution and treat everyone the same.These were the people who responded to the advocates, who asked them to call or e-mail their legislators in every district.They came from all age groups, all economic statuses, all religions, sharing only the strong belief that fairness and equality are important Vermont values.This historic achievement for the future of Vermont was built on a solid foundation of many, many stones, laid up with care — and it still came down to a single vote changing no to yes.Don’t let anyone make you believe your vote doesn’t count.