Gay activists in Vermont may be as
close as one vote to passing a gay marriage bill.
Thursday, the Vermont House approved a
gay marriage bill by a 95 to 52 vote, 5 votes shy of the needed
two-thirds majority to override a promised veto from Governor Jim
Douglas. The Senate OK'd the bill with the generous support of a 26
to 4 vote, so an override appears safe there.
Douglas' office has said the governor
would quickly veto the bill, perhaps as early as Monday.
Over the weekend, gay activists in the
state mobilized, chasing down lawmakers believed to be on the fence.
Gay marriage in the first state to approve civil unions for gay and
lesbian couples nine years ago may hinge on changing only one mind.
One member of the House, a likely gay
marriage supporter, was absent during last week's vote. House
Speaker Sap Smith, a Democrat from Morristown, also receives a vote
under these circumstances. And over the weekend, two lawmakers said
they would change their vote out of anger at the governor's contempt
for House members.
The Associated Press reports
that Rep. Albert “Sonny” Audette, a Democrat from Burlington, has
said he would change his vote and called the governor's threatened
“We in the House are just as
deserving of respect as he is,” Audette, a member of the house
Transportation Committee, told the news service. “He seems to
think we're nothing but a bunch of peons down there.”
In delivering his veto threat, Douglas,
a Republican, chided lawmakers for ignoring pressing economic issues,
but failed to give a reason for his opposition.
Audette gave a stirring speech on the
floor of the House Thursday night. He said he held no animosity
towards gay couples but was bound by his Catholic faith to vote
against the bill.
“I am a devout Catholic,” Audette
said. “My religion at this point would not want me to vote for
this. I wish that I could and I hope for the best and I congratulate
the people who are trying to get this through.”
Gay activists in Vermont were
determined to find that lone vote or change the governor's mind.
Beth Robinson, executive director of
Vermont Freedom to Marry, would not comment on the specifics of her
group's lobbying efforts in the twilight of the campaign but did say
she expected the vote to be a “nail bitter.”
“We're doing everything we can to
reach legislators, tell our stories, and urge them to support
fairness for our families,” Robinson told On Top Magazine in
an email Sunday. “We're hoping for the best.”
Over the weekend, volunteers were busy
manning phone banks in Burlington, canvassing neighborhoods, and
asking supporters to call and email their representatives and the
“Many supporters – mostly straight
and many not historically political – have stepped up to the
plate,” Robinson said.
“We're certainly getting really
close. And I'm hopeful we can get over the top,” Rep. David
Zuckerman, a Progressive from Burlington, told the AP. “The
question is, are there other 'nos' that we can persuade to help us
The override vote may take place as
early as Tuesday, if Douglas vetoes the bill on Monday as expected.
If Vermont legalizes gay marriage, it would become the first state to
do so legislatively. Last week, Iowa became the third state to allow
gay marriage after the state Supreme Court unanimously threw out a
1998 gay marriage ban.