BOSTON (Reuters) - Vermont legalized gay marriage on Tuesday after lawmakers overrode a veto from the governor by a wafer-thin margin, making the New England state the fourth in the United States where gays can wed.
The vote, nine years after Vermont was first in the United States to adopt a same-sex civil-union law, also makes the tiny state of 624,000 people the first in the nation to introduce gay marriage through legislative action instead of the courts.
"We've shown that truth and fairness and justice and love are more powerful than one man's veto pen," same-sex marriage advocate Beth Robinson said to cheers from supporters in the state capital of Montpelier after Vermont's House of Representatives passed the bill by a 100-49 vote.
Known for picturesque foliage, quaint dairy farms and a counter-culture spirit, Vermont joins New England neighbors Connecticut and Massachusetts in allowing gay marriage. Iowa legalized gay marriage last week.
Lawmakers in next-door New Hampshire and Maine are also considering bills to allow gay marriage, putting New England at the heart of a divisive national debate over the issue.
Washington D.C. extended new rights to gay couples on Tuesday, too, with a unanimous City Council vote to recognize same-sex marriages performed outside the district. Some city lawmakers lauded the move as a prelude to legal same-sex marriage in the U.S. capital.
OVERRIDES GOVERNOR'S VETO
Vermont's bill, which becomes law on September 1, looked in peril after a 95-52 vote on Thursday in the Democratic-controlled House that was five votes short of the support needed to clear a veto from Republican Governor Jim Douglas.
Douglas vetoed the bill on Monday, urging lawmakers to focus on the economy instead. Supporters needed two-thirds of the votes in each chamber to override his veto. They got that easily in the state Senate, which passed the bill 23-5 earlier on Tuesday.
The vote came just four days after Iowa's Supreme Court struck down a decade-old law that barred gays from marrying. The surprise ruling, which made Iowa the first in the heartland to allow same-sex marriages, may have influenced some Vermont lawmakers to change their vote, gay marriage advocates said.
California briefly recognized gay marriage until voters banned it in a referendum last year.
The group Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, which helped to legalize gay marriage in Massachusetts and Connecticut, has set a goal of expanding such marriages to all New England states by 2012. Maine and New Hampshire already offer same-sex couples some form of legal recognition.
Forty-three U.S. states have laws explicitly prohibiting gay marriage, including 29 with constitutional amendments restricting marriage to one man and one woman.
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force hails enactment of Vermont legislation granting the freedom to marry to same-sex couples
WASHINGTON, April 7 b The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force hails the Vermont Legislature's override today of Gov. Jim Douglas' veto of a bill extending the freedom to marry to same-sex couples. The Senate passed the measure by 23 to 5 and the House by 100 to 49. Vermont is the first state in the nation to extend the freedom to marry through the legislative process.
Statement by Rea Carey, Executive Director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
"Vermont is once again making history. Nine years ago it did so when it became the first state to grant legal recognition of same-sex relationships through its civil unions law; today, it became the first state Legislature to pass and enact a marriage equality measure.
"This is a momentous day and significant turning point in the struggle for the equal treatment of our relationships. The enactment of this bill affirms that only marriage can provide the protections, dignity and respect that the institution bestows. This vote also recognizes that civil unions simply fall short in ensuring same-sex couples are treated equally under the law.
"We salute the courage and commitment of the Vermont state legislative leadership in pursuing this measure's passage b even successfully overriding the governor's veto. We especially extend our heartfelt thanks to Vermont Freedom to Marry for its hard work and tireless advocacy for the freedom to
To learn more about the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, visit www.theTaskForce.org (http://www.theTaskForce.org).
The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement's premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.
The Task Force is a 501(c)(3) corporation incorporated in Washington, D.C. Contributions to the Task Force are tax-deductible to the full extent allowed by law. (C)2009 National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
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