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For week ended March 19, 2000 Posted 24 Feb 2001
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News about Mormons, Mormonism,
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Sent on Mormon-News: 17Mar00

Summarized by Kent Larsen

Ignoring LDS Suggestion, Vermont House Supports Gay 'Civil Unions'
(Vermont Supreme Court Deals Setback to Defense of Marriage)
New York Times 17Mar00 N1
By Carey Goldberg
No Same-Sex Marriages, but Many Parallel Benefits -- Senate Approval Seen

MONTPELIER, VERMONT -- Acting because of a Vermont Supreme Court edict last fall requiring that the state give same-sex couples equal benefits to those enjoyed by heterosexual couples, the Vermont House of Representatives passed a bill creating 'civil unions' for same-sex couples, but specifying that marriages are limited to heterosexual couples. The controversial bill passed on a vote of 76 to 69 and now moves to the state Senate where it is expected to be approved. Vermont Governor Howard Dean has indicated that he will sign the legislation.

The bill is the most comprehensive grant of marriage benefits to same-sex couples anywhere in the country. It gives the couples virtually the same benefits and responsibilities of those that are married, specifically including those benefits affected by child custody law, probate law, workers' compensation law, family leave benefit law and laws covering spousal confidentiality. Like a divorce in the case of marriages, dissolving a 'civil union' can only happen in family court.

The legislation was introduced following the mandate of the Vermont Supreme Court, which ruled December 19th that same-sex couples have a right under the Vermont Constitution to equal benefits. On January 12th LDS Church representatives testified before the Vermont House Judiciary Committee and suggested that the state try to pass a constitutional amendment to thwart the Supreme Court's decision. Mormon-News is not aware of any further LDS efforts in Vermont on this issue.

Supporters of the bill and legal experts say that other states are not obligated to recognize Vermont's civil unions, and the bill doesn't appear to raise any of the legal questions about recognition across state lines that same-sex marriage would raise.

Opponents of the bill claimed that the law left only a semantic difference between marriage and civil unions. They adopted a duck as the symbol of their view, saying 'if it looks like a duck, talks like a duck and swims like a duck, then its a duck.' Before the vote they distributed small yellow plastic ducks to legislative opponents, and several of them could be seen on the desks of legislators.

Previous Mormon News coverage:

Vermont Supreme Court Deals Setback to Defense of Marriage

LDS Representative Tells Vermont Legislature to Amend Constitution

Same-Sex Marriage Polarizes Vermont


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