Opponents of same-sex marriage bill rally at Statehouse

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(Host) Hundreds of gay marriage opponents gathered at the Statehouse on Monday to argue against a bill that they say is bad for children and weakens the traditional institution of marriage.

The rally came as the Senate begins a week of work on the bill.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Cable) "Make sure you grab materials, materials to write your representative. We have lists of your representatives if you don’t know who they are, they’ll be team leaders out in the hallway.." applause

(Dillon) Steve Cable of the organization Vermont Renewal gave some last minute instructions to the hundreds of gay marriage opponents.

The crowd of about 200 people spilled out of the hearing room to the hallway outside. It was the first real show of force against the same sex marriage bill since Democratic leaders in the Statehouse promised it would pass this year.

Cable argued that the bill was unnecessary, because the civil unions law approved nine years ago extends the rights and privileges of marriage to same sex partners.

(Cable) “So why, why are they after marriage? I understand they want better acceptance. But that’s the only thing they can get is maybe the intangible of better acceptance that the law cannot guarantee. And for all of that they’re willing to change the lifelong institution of marriage.”

(Dillon) Reverend Craig Bensen told the crowd that the bill undermines the traditional definition of marriage.

(Bensen) “To dare say that marriage is meant to be marriage between one man and one woman is considered unworthy of protection by our opponents and apparently by our senators.”

(Dillon) At a news conference, the opponents displayed a list of what they say are the risks of same sex marriage. At the top of the list is what Steve Cable described as a major threat to children.

(Cable) "It actually revokes a promise that’s been throughout history and is part of the institution of marriage – that is inherent in marriage – that every child born within a marriage will have a mother and father. It completely revokes that."

(Dillon) But Beth Robinson of the Freedom to Marry Task Force said research has shown that children raised by same sex parents are not harmed. And she said that Vermont law already allows same sex parents to adopt children.

(Robinson) “What the question that we have before us today is, okay, given that we know that there are same sex parents throughout the state raising kids together, are we going to ensure that those kids have access to the full scope of protections of civil marriage, legal, economic, social, and personal? Or are we not? And from that perspective I think the best interests of kids are squarely on our side on this.” 

(Dillon) The opponents of the marriage bill have called for a statewide referendum on the issue. Robinson points out that Vermont does not make law by public referenda.

(Robinson) “And to create a gay exception to say this is a gay issue, we’re going to put that to a vote, I think that is concerning.”

(Dillon) Robinson said the Vermont Legislature is the most open and accessible in the country. And she said if the public doesn’t like what the Legislature does, they can always vote for a change in 2010.

For VPR News, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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