Vermont, the first state to adopt a civil unions law for same-sex couples, held a public hearing on Wednesday, March 18th regarding a bill that would allow full marriage for gays and lesbians. In preparation for the hearing, which had more than 500 people in attendance, the state’s largest newspaper voiced their opinion. According to the AP:
The state’s largest newspaper published an editorial Wednesday reversing its decade-long stance against same-sex marriage. The Burlington Free Press said it had “wrongly warned Vermonters against gay marriage” in 1999, and it labeled its earlier concern that a push for it could bring violence “pure nonsense.”
Following this, Friday saw a vote in favor of the bill from Vermont’s Senate Judiciary Committee. According to the Rutland Herald:
The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved a bill Friday extending marriage to same-sex couples in Vermont.
The 5-0 vote on the bill came after a week of testimony before the committee, as parents, religious leaders, civil rights experts and psychologists weighed in on the possibility of Vermont becoming the third state to allow same-sex couples to marry.
The full Vermont Senate is expected to vote on the bill Monday.
An amendment that attempts to protect religious freedoms was included:
Committee members also approved an amendment Friday morning that made some slight changes to the bill. The original bill contained language reaffirming the Constitutional right of churches to refuse to marry people if it disagrees with their faith.
But clergy and conservative religious leaders this week told lawmakers that they were worried that the provision was actually an attempt to, at some point in the future, force religious communities to perform same-sex marriages. Several religious leaders worried that their churches would be sued for not solemnizing same-sex marriages.
The altered language – which was approved in a 5-0 vote – made it clear that churches could not be sued in civil court. Campbell, a Catholic who added in the original provision, said it was an attempt at protecting religious freedoms.
Rise, saints, and be in prayer for Vermont with regard to this issue. Gay marriage in Massachusetts has already changed society negatively, and we should expect nothing less in Vermont. For more information on gay marriage in Vermont, and how you can get informed and involved if you live in that area, check out the Vermont Marriage Advisory Council site, including their events page, which includes an event featuring pro-gay/anti-gay-marriage lecturer David Blankenhorn on March 30th.
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