Douglas will not support same sex marriage legislation

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(Host) Governor Jim Douglas says he’ll oppose the passage of a same sex marriage bill during the upcoming legislative session.

Douglas says the bill doesn’t provide any legal benefits that aren’t already available through the state’s Civil Union law. And he says the proposal could be a huge distraction during a session that he hopes will focus on strengthening Vermont’s economy.

VPRs Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) Windsor senator John Campbell is the lead sponsor of the bill and Campbell says Governor Jim Douglas’s position on the legislation will largely determine how actively Campbell works to pass it during the 2009 session.

Campbell says he views the bill as a civil rights issue and he says the work of a special bipartisan commission last winter clearly showed that there are legal differences between same sex marriage and a civil union:

(Campbell) "There is a difference and we’re not just talking about apparent difference saying that Civil Unions is not saying the same thing as marriage we’re talking about legal distinctions that are there difficulties they have on the federal level difficulties with travel difficulties with insurance policies so these are all real legitimate differences."

Campbell says it’s clear that lawmakers will want to spend a lot of time this winter on plans to improve the state economy, so he’s hoping that the governor will quickly indicate how he feels about this bill. Campbell says he won’t actively pursue this issue if Douglas takes a strong stand against it:

(Campbell) "But to be quite honest with you quite candid if the governor is going to veto the bill then it’s obvious that that bill is going to have a very difficult time being taken up so hopefully if the governor doesn’t want to sign it personally if he just decides or gives an indication that he’ll let it go through without his signature come into law then we’ll proceed."

Speaking at a press conference in Montpelier, and nursing a heavy cold, Douglas said he won’t support the same sex marriage bill because it’s not needed and because it could become a big distraction at the Statehouse:

(Douglas) "I think the current Civil Union law is sufficient it accords equality of rights to Vermonters in terms of their relationships and I think we should leave the law as it is my major concern and priority is the fiscal condition of our state government and the economic realities they we’re confronting and I think it’s important that we make those our top priorities…and not deal with issues that might divert our attention from that goal."

Douglas rarely signals if he plans to veto a bill and he says he’s taking the same approach with this legislation:

(Douglas) "I never indicate what I might do when a bill gets to my desk but I’ve been quite clear that I don’t support the legislation."

Legislative leaders say it’s not clear at this time if this bill will become a major priority during the upcoming session.

For VPR News I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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