Gay-marriage bill in Vermont poised for veto

Thu Apr 2, 2009 10:39pm EDT
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By Jason Szep

BOSTON (Reuters) - The Vermont House of Representatives passed a bill late on Thursday that would legalize gay marriage, but supporters failed to get enough votes to override a veto threat from the governor.

Lawmakers in the Democratic-led House voted 95-52 in support of the measure, which had already passed the state Senate by a 26-4 vote. Advocates were five votes short of the two-thirds majority needed to override a veto.

The bill, which faces a largely procedural vote on Friday before heading to the desk of Republican Governor Jim Douglas, would have made Vermont the third U.S. state, after Connecticut and Massachusetts, to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry.

California briefly recognized gay marriage until voters banned it in a referendum last year.

Lawmakers in New Hampshire and Maine are also considering bills to allow gay marriage, putting New England at the heart of a divisive national debate over the issue.

In a debate that stretched nearly four hours, lawmakers who backed the bill in Vermont said they were completing a process that began in 2000 when the state became the first in the country to allow full civil unions for same-sex couples.

"The promise of full equality of the marriage statutes that we held out in 2000 by creating civil unions, we believe, has not been fulfilled," Democratic Representative William Lippert, an openly gay lawmaker, told the session.

Hundreds of supporters and opponents of the bill rallied outside the State House for much of the afternoon and filled the gallery during the debate.   Continued...