Celebrations, Protests Planned for Vermont's Civil-Union Law

Article excerpt

Vermont's civil-union law is scheduled to go into effect Saturday amid private celebrations and protests by opponents of the law and some town clerks.

The state law is the first in U.S. history to give homosexual couples the same legal rights and privileges as married couples.

The law does not confer federal marriage rights and is recognized only in Vermont. Out-of-state couples who get a Vermont civil-union license likely will have to go to court to get the privileges in their home state, legal experts say.

Holly Puterbaugh and Lois Farnham, one of the three couples whose lawsuit led to the civil-union law, are scheduled to get their license Saturday and have it certified by a minister, said their attorney, Beth Robinson.

A group of Vermonters who oppose the law is trying to get an injunction to stop it from being implemented.

One motion was dismissed this week, but the judge has yet to rule on another one filed Tuesday, said the Rev. Craig Bensen, a leader of Take It To the People. He gave the latest motion a "one chance in 10 shot" of passing.

If the law takes effect Saturday, as expected, a small number of town clerks will be at work to issue civil-union licenses to couples.

"I have three appointments Saturday morning," said Margaret Picard, town clerk for South Burlington. One couple, she said, "is picking up their civil-union certificate at 9 and they're being married at 10."

Ms. Picard said she routinely issues licenses by appointment on Saturdays, and these licenses are no different. "I'm here to uphold the law, and that's why I'm here issuing the licenses," she said.

Other clerks, however, are taking evasive action from a law they see as unconscionable.

Bill Dalton, Vermont deputy secretary of state, said he has heard of a handful of clerks resigning their positions.

Susan Fortunati, who was elected town clerk in Corinth this year, plans to close her office for a few days while she decides how to handle the license issue. …