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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex marriage (SSM) and civil unions


Civil Unions & SSM in Vermont:
Background, legislation, responses

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bullet "There's nothing in this court decision, nothing in this bill, nothing in the committed relationships of two people that presents a threat to my marriage." Vermont state Senator James Leddy

bullet "The extension of the Common Benefits Clause to acknowledge plaintiffs as Vermonters who seek nothing more, nor less, than legal protection and security for their avowed commitment to an intimate and lasting human relationship is simply, when all is said and done, a recognition of our common humanity." Chief Justice Jeffrey L. Amestoy, Vermont Supreme Court.
bullet "Civil unions are a counterfeit version of marriage that will diminish the value of marriage. It is important for people to understand that the argument has shifted from talk about tolerance and a right to homosexual relations based on a right to privacy to explicit public approval. And that's profound in its implications." Mark Regan, of the Family Research Council. 1

Recognition of same-sex relationships in Vermont:

Under an order from the state Supreme Court, the Vermont Senate gave final approval to a bill to create civil unions in Vermont on 2000-APR-19.  The House voted on APR-25 to accept the Senate version. The governor signed the bill into law on APR-26.

Same-sex couples, composed of gays, lesbians and/or bisexuals, were able to obtain their civil union certificates starting on 2000-JUL-01. Justices of the peace and clergy are under no obligation to conduct civil union ceremonies; a few refused to do so.

Vermont was the second U.S. state to legally recognize same-sex couples as more than roommates. California was first. Same-sex couples who obtain a civil union in Vermont are given the same rights, privileges, obligations and responsibilities as Vermont has always given to married couples. However, they are still denied the approximately 1,050 federal "rights, benefits and privileges" that are routinely given to married couples.

In 2007-AUG, a Commission started to study the possibility of allowing loving, committed same-sex couples to marry.

By 2009-MAR, a bill legalizing SSM was passed unanimously through the Senate Judiciary Committee. It passed in the House and Senate, but was vetoed by the Governor. The House and Senate overrode the governor's veto, and authorized SSM in the state.

Loving, committed same-sex couples have been able to obtain marriage licenses since 2009-SEP-01.

No rights were taken away from opposite-sex married couples in the implementation of this legislation, except the right to be the exclusive type of couple who can be validly married. However, that was sufficient to fuel strong opposition to marriage equality, particularly among religious and social conservatives.

Topics covered in this section:


The first of two steps: create civil unions:

bullet Overview; Why Vermont?

bullet Vermont Superior Court decision

bullet Vermont Supreme Court decision

bullet House committee action

bullet State House and Senate action; Scope of the law; Getting a civil union

bullet Responses to the Vermont legislative action
bullet Year 2000, January to June
bullet 2000-July to 2006
bullet Impact of civil unions as viewed 5 years later

The final step: upgrade to same-sex marriages:

bullet Legislative committee studies same-sex marriage
bullet 2008: Overview. Senate committee activity.

bullet 2008: Legislature approves SSM. Comments. SSM becomes available Poll taken two years later.

More information:

bullet has a page of links to information sources about civil unions in Vermont. See:
bullet One essay deals with dissolving a civil union. See:
bullet has a web site designed for the traveler to Vermont. See:

Site navigation:

Home > Religious info. > Basic > Marriage > Same-sex marriage > SSM > here

Home > "Hot" topics > Homosexuality> Same-sex marriage > SSM > here

Reference used:

The following information source was used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.

  1. Pamela Ferdinand, "With Vermont in the lead, controversy progresses," Washington Post, 2001-SEP-4, at:

Copyright © 1998 to 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Last updated: 2014-JAN-25

Author: B.A. Robinson

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