Today, the Vermont Legislature overrode Governor Jim Douglas’ veto of the bill allowing same-sex couples in the state to marry legally. Vermont, with this measure, became the fourth state to legalize gay marriage, along with Massachusetts, Connecticut and everyone’s favorite wild card, Iowa. (Come on, New York! Seriously.)
What is exceptional about this story, however, is that Vermont is the first state to legalize gay marriage by legislation rather than a ruling which, to many, signals an even greater sea change for gay rights in America.
With that in mind, our attention turns to Proposition 8, which the Supreme Court of California must decide to uphold or overturn by June 5, three months after the court heard oral arguments. While those of us in the LGBTQ community obviously would like to see Proposition 8 overturned, I’d like to pose a caveat to that argument.
Perhaps the significance of having legislation or a vote in November 2010 to overturn what many call an anti-equal-rights proposition is more integral to our larger goal of gay rights than having the Supreme Court overturn it now. While the legalization of gay marriage in California would have to wait about a year and a half longer, it would also set a precedent that the public is behind the LGBTQ community and supportive of equality. Further, we are a nation of the people, based upon democratic principles and electoral value — a vote in 2010 would reinstate those principles and perhaps take a larger step toward our greater goals.
Just as Governor Jim Douglas’ veto inspired the people of Vermont to fight for the cause, leading to the legalization of gay marriage in that state, perhaps the fight against Proposition 8 in California will lead to the public realization that equal rights should be extended to every citizen in every state in this nation.