April 8, 2009
(RNS) -- Nine years after becoming the first state to allow same-sex civil unions, Vermont on Tuesday (April 7) became the first state to approve same-sex marriage without a court order.
At the same time, the District of Columbia took the first step toward recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions, a move that some predict may ultimately lead to legalized gay marriages in the nation's capital.
The Vermont House overrode an earlier veto by Gov. Jim Douglas in a 100-49 vote, following a lopsided veto override by the state Senate.
Vermont becomes the fourth state -- and the second in a week -- to allow gay marriage, joining Massachusetts, Connecticut and Iowa.
Gay rights groups said the Vermont decision -- particularly its lack of a court mandate -- will no doubt have ramifications in other states.
California lawmakers, for example, have twice passed gay marriage bills that were vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
"The Vermont Legislature, just as the Iowa Supreme Court last week, understands the tremendous significance of marriage, and that domestic partnerships and civil unions simply do not provide the same dignity and protections that come with marriage," said Marc Solomon, whose group, Equality California, is challenging a voter-approved constitutional amendment that ended gay marriage last year.
Conservatives, meanwhile, criticized the Vermont vote.
"While government officials may change definitions, they cannot change nature," said Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America. "The first human relationship was between one man and one woman, and it became the foundation of all society."
In Washington, the D.C. City Council unanimously approved a bill that would recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states and countries. The bill still needs a second approval vote from the 13-member council, approval by Mayor Adrian Fenty and congressional review before it can become law. The District already has a domestic partner registry.
"It's high time we send a clear, unequivocal message to those persons of the same sex and married in another jurisdiction that their marriage is valid in D.C.," said Councilman Jim Graham, an openly gay Democrat, according to The Washington Post.
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