Announcement comes after Senate approves marriage bill
MONTPELIER, Vermont — Vermont’s Republican governor said Wednesday, March 25 for the first time that he will veto a gay-marriage proposal if it passes the state Legislature.
Speaking at an afternoon news conference, Gov. Jim Douglas said that he thought Vermont’s first-in-the-nation civil unions law, passed in 2000, provided sufficient rights to same-sex couples and that he believed "marriage should remain between a man and woman."
"For those reasons and because I believe that by removing any uncertainty about my position we can move more quickly beyond this debate, I am announcing that I intend to veto this legislation when it reaches my desk," he proclaimed.
Vermont would become the third U.S. state, along with Massachusetts and Connecticut, to allow same-sex marriage. The governor’s announcement drew immediate condemnation from the Democratic House speaker and Senate president pro tem and from the head of the leading group supporting same-sex marriage in Vermont.
"I’m profoundly disappointed. I think this is a sad day for Vermont and Vermonters," said Beth Robinson, chairwoman of the Vermont Freedom to Marry Task Force.
Lawmakers vowed to continue dealing with the bill, which passed the Senate on a voice vote Tuesday, March 24 after winning preliminary approval there by a 26-4 roll call vote a day earlier. The measure currently is in the House Judiciary Committee and is expected to be up for a vote in the full House late next week.
Since Vermont passed its civil unions law, which permits state benefits for gay spouses, California, New Jersey and New Hampshire have followed suit. Massachusetts and Connecticut allow full marriage for gay and lesbian couples.
Meanwhile, an effort to force a vote on same-sex civil unions failed in the Hawaii Senate, essentially killing the measure.
Only six senators supported the legislative maneuver, short of the nine votes required for a full Senate vote.
Even though about 18 senators have indicated they support civil unions, they lacked the political willpower to go against Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, who opposed the effort.