Civil union commission chair hopes to avoid contentious debate

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(Host) The chairman of a new commission that will gauge Vermonters’ feelings about same-sex marriage says he hopes to avoid the contentious civil unions debate of seven years ago.

Speaking today on VPR’s Vermont Edition,
Tom Little said his commission is designed to gather information and stimulate dialogue – not recommend or write legislation.

Little says he hopes that by taking a deliberate approach, the gay marriage discussion will be less emotional than the civil unions debate was.

He says no matter what happens, the legislature will eventually have to confront the issue.

(Little) "I’m also very mindful of the political challenges that this presents and I think that the general assembly should be cautious but show leadership. I don’t think this is the kind of bill that should be brought up session after session and hammered away and hammered away until it finally passes and is signed into law."

(Host) Little chaired the House Judiciary Committee in 2001 and helped craft civil unions legislation.

Republican Senator Kevin Mullin of Rutland County says there are more important issues for Vermonters and the legislature to focus on – like economic development. And Mullin says he thinks the make-up of the commission is designed to lead to a specific outcome.

(Mullin) "If you take a look at the members of this there’s no one on that commission that was opposed to civil unions. And it seems to be stacked with a definite outcome in mind. And its almost like a PR commission to create the move toward gay marriage, rather than a commission that’s out there having a conversation with Vermonters about what they think."

(Host) The commission will hold six public hearing on same sex marriage, beginning in September.

The commission is due to report to the legislature next April.

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