By Kathleen Gilbert

MONTPELIER, March 17, 2009 ( – Hundreds of Vermonters attended the first day of legislative hearings yesterday addressing a bill that would make Vermont the third state to recognize same-sex “marriage.”

Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee listened to dozens of testimonies in the first of a string of hearings throughout this week concerning S.115, which would redefine marriage as “the legally recognized union of two people.” 

In 2000, Vermont was the first state to approve civil unions for same-sex couples, a fiercely debated move that divided the state. Over a dozen lawmakers that favored civil unions lost their seats in the next election.

Earlier this month, House and Senate leaders of the Democrat-led congress pledged to pass the “marriage” bill this year.  Republican Gov. Jim Douglas has not said whether he would veto the bill.

Held in a Statehouse conference room that quickly filled to its 60-person capacity, Monday’s hearing hosted nearly a dozen speakers, most of whom reportedly supported the bill.  The Associated Press reports that over two hundred true marriage supporters, and about fifty same-sex “marriage” supporters, rallied outside. 

Hearing participants discussed the cultural significance of marriage, the origin of homosexuality, and children’s right to a mother and father.

Former Rep. Tom Little, who passed the civil union law nine years ago as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, argued that the same-sex “marriage” bill should be passed because the civil union law failed to grant “less tangible benefits” including the use of words such as “marriage,” “wedding,” and “divorce,” which have “historical, social and cultural significance.”

Eugene and Sandy Raymond, who have been married fifty years, came to the Statehouse to rally against the bill.  “We believe that marriage is between a man and a woman – that’s the way God designed us,” Sandy Raymond told local news station WCAX.

Rev. Craig Bensen, one of the opposition rally organizers, urged lawmakers to allow for a statewide ballot question on same-sex “marriage.”   “If you want to know how Vermonters feel about this issue, just ask us,” Bensen said.

The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) reports that same-sex “marriage” advocates have launched “the largest non-election radio and TV advertising buy in the history of Vermont.”  NOM will in turn sponsor a “Don’t Mess with Marriage” advertising campaign to battle same-sex “marriage” legislation in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. 

Legislative leaders have been criticized for hastily introducing the bill at a time of economic instability. 

“This is a very tough issue, it’s very emotional,” said Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington County. “I think that the leadership has misjudged how divisive this is going to be.”

“All of this was sprung in a fashion that I think most Vermonters – even if they are in favor of gay marriage – would recognize that the tactics being used are underhanded tactics, trying to push this through without debate,” said Steve Cable of Vt. Renewal, a pro-family group.

To take action via the National Organization for Marriage, go to:


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