Magazine article The Christian Century

Vermont Governor Signs `Civil Unions' Bill

Magazine article The Christian Century

Vermont Governor Signs `Civil Unions' Bill

Article excerpt

Vermont Governor Howard Dean signed a law April 26 that makes the state the first to give gay and lesbian couples the rights and benefits of marriage through "civil unions." "I think it is a courageous and powerful statement about who we are in the state of Vermont," said Dean, a Democrat. "I also believe that this legislation speaks to the heart of this state, and certainly to my heart."

The state's lawmakers, who approved the bill April 25 by a vote of 79-68, did not use the term "marriage" to describe the new benefits. They instead created a parallel track of civil unions, which would give homosexual partners the property and other legal rights already given to heterosexual spouses.

On July 1 civil unions will become legal, making Vermont the state that gives relationships formed by gay and lesbian couples the most recognition. The three couples who sued in 1997 when they were denied marriage licenses watched the historic vote April 25. "This isn't marriage, but it's a huge and powerful bundle of rights that we've finally gotten," said Stan Baker, who sued with his partner, Peter Harrigan. …

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