A state Senate committee unanimously approved a gay marriage bill on Friday, moving Vermont one step closer to allowing same-sex couples to legally wed.There's a good chance it will pass both houses, which are Democratic, but there's a question whether the governor will sign the bill. Also, there may be a subsequent referendum which will be another lightning rod for outside forces, as we saw in California.
"It provides ... gay and lesbian couples the same rights that I have as a married heterosexual," said Sen. John Campbell, vice chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and chief sponsor of the bill.
The measure would replace Vermont's first-in-the-nation civil unions law with one that allows marriage of same-sex partners beginning Sept. 1.
The Episcopal Bishop of Vermont testified for the bill as follows (H/T Susan Russell!):
Marriage equality means different things to different people, but among the things it means to me is that the values I hold dear in my own marriage and in the marriages of other men and women of faith can be celebrated by all. Those values include the mutual love and support of another person in a committed life-long relationship, in which fidelity, joy, help and comfort in all circumstances can be respected and practiced, and through which the stability of family can be provided for those who choose to care and nurture children. I do not believe that this legislation will diminish, or compromise, the integrity of marriage (certainly not my marriage). Rather, I believe it has the possibility to strengthen our understanding and appreciation of marriage as we witness the love and fidelity of gay and lesbian couples alongside that of straight couples.Go to Susan's site to read the whole thing, which is measured and intelligent.
Finally, as the title of this bill reflects, there is a need in this legislation to affirm the principle of religious freedom that is so much a part of our society. This bill will not settle the theological debate within religious communities—but that is not your work, is it! Your work is to serve the citizens of Vermont and to assure, to the best of your ability, the civil and human rights of all of us.
Civil marriage is not religious. I remind you again of the fact that the Roman Catholics have tolerated civil re-marriage after divorce for many years, although their faith forbids it. As Andrew Sullivan wrote in his essay Modernity, Faith and Marriage (worth reading),
The reason the marriage debate is so intense is because neither side seems able to accept that the word "marriage" requires a certain looseness of meaning if it is to remain as a universal, civil institution. This is not that new. Catholics, for example, accept the word marriage to describe civil marriages that are second marriages, even though their own faith teaches them that those marriages don't actually exist as such. But most Catholics are able to set theological beliefs to one side and accept a theological untruth as a civil fact. ..... Catholics can tolerate fellow citizens who are not Catholic calling their non-marriages marriages - because Catholics have already accepted a civil-religious distinction. They can wear both hats in the public square.I'd say, let's hope, but I've mostly run out of that on this subject