Douglas addresses gay marriage concerns

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(Host) Governor Jim Douglas says there’s no need to change any Vermont laws to address growing concerns about gay marriage. The governor also says he doubts that the state of Vermont will recognize gay marriages sanctioned by the state of Massachusetts.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Douglas says he opposes an effort to pass an amendment to the federal Constitution to ban gay marriage because the issue of defining marriage should be decided by individual states, not the federal government. And as far as the state of Vermont is concerned, the governor told reporters at a Statehouse news conference, that there’s no need to take any action in Vermont because the civil union law clearly defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman:

(Douglas) “I don’t recommend doing anything in Vermont at this point. We went through a very difficult process four years ago resulting in the civil union statute that’s in effect today. I think most Vermonters have come to accept it, live with it, to regard it as something with which we can live. So I think Vermont ought to leave its statute the way it is.”

(Kinzel) The Massachusetts Supreme Court has ruled that civil marriages must be available to same sex couples in the state by the middle of May. Douglas says the state of Vermont will not recognize these marriages, and same sex couples who are married in Massachusetts will not automatically receive a civil union license in Vermont.

(Douglas) “So the understanding I’ve received is that we would not respect a marriage as such in another state coming to Vermont. Couples coming to Vermont who have been married in jurisdictions that authorize that, are free to seek a civil union license in Vermont. It seems to me that we ought to just leave things the way they are.”

(Kinzel) The governor was asked if he views the civil union law as a step forward for the state of Vermont:

(Douglas) “I don’t know if I would offer a characterization. It was a tough decision for the Legislature to make, tough decision for the state to make. It was a very divisive experience, one that I hope we don’t have to relive in terms of its level of emotion and controversy any time in the near future.”

(Kinzel) Neither the House nor the Senate Judiciary committees is seriously considering any proposal to change Vermont laws on this issue.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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