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9: Same-sex unions approved

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2009 was a landmark year for same-sex couples in Vermont, who won the right to marry. The bill passed easily in both chambers of the Legislature — by a margin of 26-4 in the Senate and 100-46 in the House. Both Addison County senators and all but one county representative voted for the bill. The 100-vote tally in the House on April 7 gave the bill’s proponents the super-majority they needed to override Gov. James Douglas’s veto.

The House vote was a milestone in equal rights legislation, since it made Vermont the first state to legalize same-sex marriage through the legislative process rather than through the court.

Back in April, Middlebury resident Beth Robinson, leader of the Vermont Freedom to Marry Task Force, was hopeful that the marriage legislation would be part of a growing regional trend, following in the footsteps of Connecticut and Massachusetts.

“It is just a matter of time before some of our sister states join us,” she said.

Just months after Vermont’s move, in June, New Hampshire passed a same-sex marriage law, scheduled to take effect at the beginning of 2010. By the end of the year Iowa and Washington, D.C., had also OK’d same-sex marriage. New Jersey’s same-sex marriage bill is still going through the legislative process, and in Maine, legislators endorsed a marriage quality bill but voters in November rejected it.

In Vermont, the law took affect on Sept. 1. Pennsylvania residents Pat Murray and Jenn Dilworth marked Vermont’s historic decision to legalize same-sex marriage with a small ceremony on the dock of Dilworth’s parents’ summer home on Lake Dunmore in Salisbury. They were among the first same-sex couples in the state to tie the knot.

For many Addison County same-sex couples, the vote signaled the end of a 15-year fight for equal marriage rights. And although there are still issues with the marriage law — the legality of the marriage in other states and access to Social Security benefits among them — the new law was, for many, a cause for celebration.

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