American Foundation for Equal Rights

Marriage News Blog

Three Years of Marriage Equality in Vermont

Three years ago today, Vermont became the fourth state in the country where gay and lesbian couples had freedom to marry. On this third anniversary, let’s take a moment look back at how that happened — and what’s happened since.

The journey to marriage saw its first major leap in the year 2000, when the state became the first to recognize civil unions. The Vermont Supreme Court had ruled that gay and lesbian couples are entitled to the same benefits and protections as opposite-couples. In response, then-Governor Howard Dean signed a civil unions bill into law.

That went a long way towards protecting families in Vermont, but it still wasn’t equality. It wasn’t until 2009 that a Senate committee unanimously recommended legalizing marriage. The House and Senate quickly passed a marriage bill that Governor Jim Douglas then vetoed. We were just five votes shy of overriding his veto, and sure enough, five legislators stepped up and voted to override. The bill passed by one single vote, and marriages commenced.

The Williams Institute estimated that in the first three years, marriage will mean an extra $30.6 million dollars for Vermont’s economy, and 700 new jobs.

And public support has remained strong. A survey last year showed that 58 percent of residents are glad marriage is legal. That’s up from 53 percent in 2009, and 40 percent in 2004.

Of course, work still isn’t over. The federal government doesn’t recognize the marriages of the thousands of gay and lesbian couples who have married in Vermont.

That’s why AFER remains committed to bringing about full federal marriage equality for all Americans.

Pictured: Bill Slimback and Bob Sullivan were married at 12:01 a.m. on September 1, 2009, when marriage equality legislation went into effect in Vermont. Credit: Andy Duback/AP